Wednesday, June 13, 2012

What would I say to myself?

To everyone who tries to find the right thing to say and takes a stab at it, thank you.  You are a brave soul.  To everyone else who doesn't know the right thing to say or worries about saying the wrong thing, I get it.  I wouldn't know what to say to myself either!  There really are no "right" words to say, but your effort at trying communicates that you care.  How can you find the right words to comfort one when their greatest desires cannot be granted and you really cannot fix their pain?

After Drew died, I found the question, "How are you?" so difficult to answer.  I knew people meant well but each time I heard that I had to figure out how to respond, when it was such a loaded question.  Was I in the mood to dig deep and share my emotions, did I have the time or the energy to open up, or would I rather just give an easy answer?  Each time I had to make a decision; the answer never came without contemplation.  Thankfully, my perspective changed on this before Piper died.  David and Nancy Guthrie have written a book called, "When Your Family's Lost a Loved One" that helped me see through the "how are you's" to the heart of the question.  There is even a chapter titled, "How are you?" !!  When David talked about how the question made him feel, I was right there with him.  I felt like he had taken the words out of my mouth!  But his response was so full of grace.  He decided to look past the question to the intent of the question.  I may have thought this, but needed to see it put into words and validated by another with similar experience I guess, in order to really get it this time around.  So now, every time I hear the question, "How are you?" I am just so glad someone cares enough to ask.  I am glad people take the time to stop and say, "I just don't know what to say!"  I even get it when I pass someone and they look at me with a look of compassion but don't stop because they are afraid they might say the wrong thing.  I feel your support.  Don't be afraid to say the wrong thing... Jordan and I both are just glad you care!  And if we are ready to share, we will.

I really learned what it's like to not know what to say when a close friend's daughter died a year ago.  We had talked many times and always had plenty to talk about; finding the right words had never been a problem until her world turned upside-down.  The first time I saw the mother after her daughter died, I found myself speechless.  Me, with my love of words... speechless.  Absolutely and dumbfoundingly at a loss for words.  What could I say?  And how to say it?  In that moment, my eyes were opened to the difficulty of trying to soothe a deep wound with the smallest of bandaids.  As a result, between David Guthrie's grace and this realization, this time I don't expect any to have the right words to say.  I just appreciate the courage shown when someone ventures into this uncertain territory, whether it's by email, by comment here, in person, on the phone, etc.  I know there are many who don't even know whether to comment at all, and I get this too.  It would be so difficult to be in the shoes opposite ours right now... I wouldn't know what to say either.

For the many who are afraid to ask about my dear children, I just want to give you permission to talk about them.  Piper and Drew are still a very important part of our family, our daily life, our conversations, our motivation and our hearts.  There are few things parents like to do more than to talk about their children; this doesn't change for us, it just gets complicated.  We like to be able to talk about them, and to hear about yours.  We love to hear how our children have impacted your lives; it helps us celebrate them!  We also like to hear about your children and to compare notes, or to laugh at the oddities, joys and trials parenthood provide.  These conversations are not uncomfortable for us, they allow our children to continue to live in our hearts.  We do not believe they are dead... but that they are alive!  Perhaps their frail bodies are gone, but their spirits will live on forever and we rejoice in the hope of seeing them again.  My spirit pushes against the walls of this body with anticipation and joy when I imagine my spirit recognizing theirs in Heaven and I long for this reunion, even as I realize how little I know about this aspect.  I can almost feel that moment of recognition and my heart pounds as I think about it at this moment.  So with this perspective, how can we stop talking about them as if once their bodies died they ceased to exist?

To expand on the thoughts above just a bit more, if I was in another's shoes I might worry about upsetting Jordan or (Kari) by sharing something I had learned or changed in my parenting or life perspective.  Jordan and I have talked about this and strangely, it has the opposite affect.  We are just so glad to see that our experiences are helping others.  There is something so therapeutic about being able to help!  It makes us rejoice in Drew and Piper, humbled that God is using their lives to change hearts or to motivate others to enjoy a moment, to stop for a kiss, to stay for a snuggle, or to slow life down.  We would be more heartbroken if our losses were for nothing, that those around us didn't feel our experience deeply enough to realize their blessings.  I don't think I can say this well enough but I hope that you can feel my heart when I am sharing this.  It is not a selfish pride, but a feeling of being overwhelmed at being able to be part of this!  I will say it again; my spirit is full even as my heart aches!

Thank you for bearing with me as I try to put words together on a night when I can't seem to connect the dots to form a picture, but I felt a deep need to tell you, dear friends, that I am just grateful for your intentions... whether revealed in words or not!  I may not say thank you in the right way for all you do, but I am thinking it!  (I could write a whole post about this... but won't until I can connect the dots!)


  1. Kari, your love and heart for others continues to amaze me as you walk this journey that I just can't fathom. Thank-you for your understanding, and I praise God He has given you the ability to see intentions, and know that even when the words don't seem right people truly care. Your experiences have changed me, and continue to challenge me to love my children and enjoy them the way God intended. What I wouldn't give to live closer, to just sit with you, pray with you, and love you the way you love others. You bless my life richly, and I thank God for you.

    1. Thank you dear Ronni! I too wish you were closer! I am so thankful to see that Piper's life is having this impact on people... and that God is working in this way. Thank you for sharing this with me - it fills my heart.

  2. Kari,
    I wholeheartedly agree with Roni's post. You are an amazing person and mother and your writing leaves me in awe...and frequently in tears. While I am not a mother your experiences have changed the way I look at other's children and the people around me in general. And I will never look at the color pink the same way again.
    The sunset in Bozeman was beautiful tonight. Fluffy white clouds painted amazing shades of pink and orange. While I was watching the colors change I noticed the white outline of a small heart in the middle of it all and immediately thought of little Piper. It only lasted about 30 seconds but it brought tears to my eyes and I wished so much I could capture it and pass it on to all of you. I felt the same way when I heard that Drew had passed. I was standing outside at work that evening and noticed the sun and shadows had created a long line of heart shapes on the brick building next door. Your family has touched me deeply. It can't be easy to put words to feelings, I know I'm not very good at it, but you have shared so much with so many and so beautifully. Thank YOU!!!
    Aimee B.

    1. Thank you for sharing this with me Aimee, what a beautiful gift. I could imagine I was seeing it too...

  3. as always your words move me to tears.
    We love you all and pray Gods blessings on you today.
    Love Mike and Michelle

  4. I don't know what to say either, many times, so I will keep putting my arms around you whether in person or through God when we're apart and praying. You, daughter are teaching me so much, you write what's in my mind too but somehow you find words where I find a mess of letters. But who cares, I can still hug! Thank you Kari and Jordan...Mom

  5. Kari,
    one of my dear friends here lost her brother in Iraq a number of years ago. Her mom was our featured speaker at our Ladies'Retreat, and I will always remember her speaking about what NOT to say to a grieving parent. She shared some of what people had said to her that left her speechless....only due to the immense lack of "appropriateness" (if that's a word). I have never forgotten her words, and admit, that they have made me stop and contemplate before trying (so often in vain) to convey compassionate sentiments. She mentioned that rather than trying to say the right words, if in doubt, just listen. I love that thought....but what if we're not close enough (distance-wise) to sit with a friend while she speaks?? So your words are (once again) comforting, and leave me in wonder at the reversal of roles when my intentions are to be the giver and yet am the receiver of comfort. :) It is so difficult to convey tone and accurate meaning through least for me. You have a beautiful way with that gift, and "beautiful" may not even be the right word. Thank you for giving. Thank you for letting us receive blessings through your heart. Thank you for intentionally seeing meanings behind offered words that fall short. I love this post. I keep praying...not because I have the right words to offer up, but for exactly the opposite reason.
    You are on my heart so often.
    love, Brandi

  6. Brandi... I just love you! Your comments fill my heart and encourage me every time. I am so glad you have reached out - your friendship means so much to me. I look so forward to meeting with you in person this summer and I feel God has much to teach me through you. Your prayers and support are more valuable than you realize. Thank you.

    Thank you even more for your immensely thoughtful gift of that beautiful pink Bible for Piper and I... that touched me deeply and will for a very long time. The verses you highlighted... speechless. Thank you God for this dear friend.

  7. Kari you are so beautiful. Thank you for these words. I struggle so much with what to say as a nurse, a friend to people have experienced loss. Thank you for articulating so well what it's like to be on the other end.