Honor Them, Honor Yourself

(so I didn't make it through 10 posts in 10 days. Epic fail. Today I'm trying again. Note to self: Keep going!)

Suicide Survivor's Top Ten Things To Do (or NOT Do):

Your traditions don't have to die with your loved one. My Dad killed himself three days before Father's Day. I had already bought a Father's Day card for him. I came home and buried that card in the bottom of my card box (I'm a "card person". It's my own personal "tradition" to give or make great cards. Yes, I have a box-o-cards for every occasion. Drives my OCD husband crazy!). Every time I'd reach to the bottom of the box and see that father's day card, my heart would leap into my throat and I would crumble. Until I decided to conquer that card by writing in it. My fear of that card was tied to my false belief that all my emotions and feelings for my Dad had to die and be buried with the memory of him. Wrong. I decided to brave it. I decided to work through it. That card is stained with my ink and my tears (and probably my snot). It is full of words that are held intimately private between me and my Dad and my Savior. I'm not going to lie and say it wasn't incredibly painful to write in that card. It was. But it was my tradition and it didn't have to die with Dad. 

I've bought my Dad a Father's Day card every year since he died. Some years I write in it. Some years I just file it in my box with the other cards marked: Dad, Daddy, J.D., Dragon Slayer, Jerry Don, Gary Don - all the names we had for him. 

Honor them. Our family has kept some of our old traditions. Every year on Dad's birthday we eat his favorite meal: beans, cornbread and carrot cake. We even sing "Happy Birthday" to him. We sometimes go to the Harley-Davidson shop...Dad's favorite place. We usually exchange some sort of Harley memorabilia - that quintessential black & orange shield will forever be a reminder of Dad.  We pray and cry and laugh. We remember.  

Honor yourself. Our family has created new traditions. Every year on the anniversary of Dad's death, we celebrate another year that God has brought us through. We call it Dead Dad Day. We take turns buying each other a meaningful gift. We eat, shop, travel. It doesn't matter what we do, all that matters is that we're together. We survived! We didn't think we could or would, but we did. We pray and cry and laugh on Dead Dad Day. And we make new memories. 

Sunday was Dead Dad Day and, BONUS, it was Father's Day. I woke up and celebrated what a great Daddy my husband is to our daughter. And then we went to church and worshipped. I cried, of course, especially when we belted out my favorite David Crowder song, "Oh How He Loves Us." After worship, I jumped in the van and ran across town to my friend's church where a member of my church family was sharing his story of alcoholism and sobriety. And I cried. I cried for the hope that God gives a young man that he can rise out of the "pit of despair", out of the "mud & mire" and come out different, better. To be present to witness this young man be poured out and used to point others to the forgiveness and transformation of Jesus, what a privilege. Wow. Thanks, Ty (and Tonya). Many have seen what He has done in your life and they are amazed! Sunday was a great day. Yesterday my Mom, Sister and I celebrated Dead Dad Day. We ate, shopped, laughed, cried a little and shared a few memories. 

Mostly, we celebrated how good God is. How faithful He is. How much He loves us. 
We're so thankful. We're so blessed. He's brought us so far in eight years! 

Where ever you find yourself today, don't stop. Don't bury your feelings and emotions in the bottom of your box-o-cards. Pull out the card (or journal or blog) and write it all out. Go through it. You can do it...and when you think you really can't do it anymore, then remember and renew your belief in the healing, transforming and resurrecting power of Jesus. The place where we cease to exist is the place where God is just beginning to do something spectacular in our life. Let Him dazzle you...and keep going. 

Ty shared his life verses with us on Sunday (Psalm 40:1-3). These are some of my favorite words from scripture. 

Psalm 40:1-3 (NLT)
"I waited patiently for the Lord to help me,
    and he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the pit of despair,
    out of the mud and the mire.
He set my feet on solid ground
    and steadied me as I walked along.
He has given me a new song to sing,
    a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see what he has done and be amazed.
    They will put their trust in the Lord."

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Jessica Phillips

Jessica is worshiper and follower of Jesus. He rescued her heart at age 6 but he rescued her calling, purpose and direction in her early 20's. Everyday God is still writing Jessica's story. It involves her husband, Brad, her daughter, Emery, their extended families. But the story is a tale of loss of life and dark grief. And the story ebs and weaves and the grief story is followed by weddings and laughter. And what comes next? A Baby! God sends us a baby to shape and teach and grow right in the midst of our loss and realizing that life actually moves forward. We didn't think it would again after he died. But life just did what it was supposed to do...and it went on. And hope is born again. Everything I write is based on this fact: I'm God's child, I'm alive today. So what do You want me to do for You? Because I want my contribution to matter. I want to leave a legacy.