Archive for July, 2016

Mother to Mother…A Statement of Support for the Silent Grief of Ghazala Khan

July 31st, 2016 | 2 comments

We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls.

~Mother Teresa~
I told myself months ago I was not going to get involved in the political discussion surrounding this election. I wanted to, but I know I have a limited amount of time on this earth to affect change, and I will not waste it on divisive words that serve only to separate us, or accentuate our differences.

My job is to talk about rising again after we fall, finding gratitude in the beauty that remains in our life, and continuing our conversation about finding purpose and peace after loss.  There is no room in the stark reality of grief for political rhetoric.  And to be honest, there is a unspoken unity in loss that allows us to cross party lines and comfort one another.  In all my conversations with bereaved parents all over the world, I have never asked, nor been asked about my political affiliation.

Because loss is just bigger than that.  It makes no difference to me who you vote for in November, although I do hope you cast your ballot with both your head and your heart.  I do hope that you take the time to understand what the nominees are offering you, and vote with what is aligned with your hopes for not only your individual future, but the future of your neighbor.  Because we are more alike than different.  We are all just trying to work hard, take care of our families, make memories,  be happy and leave a legacy.

But I have to respond to a recent news story about bereaved parents Khizr and Ghazala Khan, who lost their brave son, Captain Humayun Khan, who was killed while courageously serving our country in Iraq.

Both the Republican and Democratic National Conventions allowed us to hear the heartbreaking stories from bereaved parents all over our country. I cried for each of them, regardless of political affiliation, and celebrated their courage to share their stories of loss on a national stage.  I hope that the country was watching, because we have an opportunity to learn from them and their loss.  There are lives affected by our politics and position statements, there are families standing at gravesites wondering why we can’t work together for positive change.

As a bereaved parent, you know that there isn’t even a word to describe who you are after the loss of your child.  Here’s a quote  that sums it up nicely.

A wife who loses a husband is called a widow.
A husband who loses a wife is called a widower.
A child who loses his parents is called an orphan.
There is no word for a parent who loses a child.
That’s how awful the loss is.
– Jay Neugeboren –  1976

At both conventions, the words were strong.  They were hard to watch, and difficult to process.  These parents are confronting us on a national stage and telling us that change needs to happen.

But yesterday, Mr. Trump responded to the both the strong words of Khizr Khan and the silence of his wife Ghazala.  So today, I feel compelled to write in support of a fellow bereaved mother.

Here’s the quote that gutted me.

STEPHANOPOULOS:

I don’t know if you saw this speech, but there was a man named Khizr Khan speaking at the Democratic Convention last night. His son, Captain Humayun Khan, was killed  in Iraq. And he had some very tough questions for you. He said you wouldn’t have even let his son in America.

TRUMP:

He doesn’t know. He doesn’t know that. I saw him. He was, you know, very emotional and probably looked like a nice guy to me. His wife, if you look at his wife, she was standing there. She had nothing to say. She probably, maybe she wasn’t allowed to have anything to say. You tell me. But plenty of people have written that. She was extremely quiet. And it looked like she had nothing to say. A lot of people have said that. And personally, I watched him. I wish him the best of luck.

To be completely fair, I paid a visit to Mr. Trump’s website to ensure I had a completely accurate version of his statement.  You can view it here.

Mr. Trump, please understand.  It is not okay for you to question the silence of a bereaved mother.  It is not okay for you to subtly imply that her silence is because she is different, thinking that will strengthen your position politically.  It is not okay for you to not hear the message of our military families.  It is not okay for you to think that nothing is off limits to you.

I watched this couple speak just as you did, and what I saw was the depth of pain that can only be felt when you have to bury your baby.  As a mother who has buried two of her children, I know this pain.  I know what it is like to have to hold yourself stoically, feeling you may shatter into a million pieces.

For the first year after losing my son Stephen, I could only speak to my immediate family.  Every time I would attempt to talk to anyone outside of my inner circle, I would open my mouth and cry.  The pain…that is all that I could get out.

I couldn’t go to the mailbox for the first six months after Stephen died, for fear that I may run into a neighbor, and they would see that I was in shambles.

This year, on the anniversary of my son’s passing, I could not speak to anyone but my husband and son.  Seven years later, the pain that sits within my broken heart coexists with the joy I choose to find each day.  But sit there it does.  We are bereaved mothers.  We have buried our babies.  There is no timeline, there is no explanation that we owe to anyone for our silence.  We are carrying our children in our hearts, we are making peace each and every day with the loss of dreams, potential and promise.  We work each and every day to put one foot in front of the other.

I’m sorry if we do that quietly, instead of having a unfiltered stream of consciousness and flight of ideas.  We are quiet, and thoughtful. We are forever broken.

If we really want to Make America Great Again, we need to be able to sit together in that silence, in that pain.  It is in that space that we can learn from our losses, and love each other instead of tearing each other down.

Sending an abundance of love to all the bereaved mothers out there,

Kelly

 

 

 

Resist The Urge to Judge…

July 27th, 2016 | no comments

Mexican sombrero cinco de mayo background borderAs long as we continue to live as if we are what we do, what we have, and what other people think about us, we will remain filled with judgments, opinions, evaluations, and condemnations. We will remain addicted to putting people and things in their “right” place.

~ Henri J.M. Nouwen ~

I’ve been pondering the division that we all see and feel in our world.  There are so many conversations about the differences between us and who should assume blame for the issues we are facing.

It reminded me of something I wrote on July 23, 2009.  19 days after my son had died, I was shattered, hanging onto life one breath at a time. My life was in pieces at my feet.

There is a clarity in grief. Life is stripped bare, and you are presented with an opportunity to see life for what is really is, if you are willing to look with open eyes and an open heart.

You see that our differences are miniscule compared to the commonality of our human journey.  You see that love is all that matters, period.

On this What Can YOU Do Wednesday, I reflect back on that writing and realize that there is still work to be done.  Thankfully, we are in this together.

Share some love with the world today.

Sending love and acceptance your way,

Kelly

 

July 23rd, 2009 : Put Down Your Gavel…

Never judge a book by its cover.  I am reminded of a reflection on that topic I had some time ago as I stare at the ceiling.  I am thinking a lot lately, and my brain hurts. 

In any case, I’m thinking about judgments. How we judge ourselves, our families, our friends, strangers, political parties, products, commercials, TV shows, and sports teams. We all need to be given gavels at birth; we are so good at passing sentence on anyone or anything different that crosses our path.

I write this knowing I am guilty of judging on demand. And I may, despite the lessons that life is teaching me, be one of those people in the future. 

As a parent, I’ve told my children not to judge people for their differences, the obvious being race, religion and economic position. And watching them live with open hearts and minds is one of the greatest gifts of motherhood. Both Stephen and Brendan have had long conversations with me about the injustice in the world, and speak passionately about the need for change. We have pondered about why people focus on differences rather than the similarities.

I am reminded of the old man on the corner. About two years ago, there was an old, somewhat rundown house on the corner of an intersection not far from my neighborhood.  Adjacent to my son’s school, the house was sheltered from view by a number of large trees. The look and the feel of the property did not match the newly built dwellings and shopping surrounding it.  The house had been here long before developers surveyed the area with dollar signs dancing in their head.

Brendan and his school friends would talk about the scary house and speculate about the man living there, who was rarely seen.  I have to admit, when I noticed the house peeking through the trees, I wondered too.

And then he died.  And his family cleared out the contents of the house, the property was sold, and the house was demolished.  And on a humid, summer day months later, I found myself at that intersection, looking at the now vacant and overgrown lot. I had judged him, because of the outward appearance of his lodging, but I did not know him. And in the corner of the lot, I saw the most beautiful arrangement of various daylilies, blooming in spite of their owner’s absence. Planted many moons ago, perhaps when he was younger, maybe with his wife by his side.

It was a lesson for me.  Here I am, walking through life with the hopes of being accepted in spite of my imperfections and mistakes, only to realize I’m not offering that same acceptance to my fellow man.  

The beautiful colors peeking out from the overgrown foliage reminded me not to judge a book by its cover. Just as, so many years before, the medical resident judged how I presented on the obstetrics wards as a teenage mother of twins, I had made an assumption without taking the time to know the truth.  

How many times have I made an assumption in a negative light?  How many times have I made a remark or rolled my eyes when encountering someone who marched to their own drummer? Why does someone have to be wrong for us to feel right?

No more.  Today I promise to work daily not to judge others, and to drown out the voices of others who may judge me and keep pushing forward, with the knowledge that I am enough and worthy of peace and happiness.

Today I am thankful for the eyes to see the truth, the ears to listen, and the heart to love one more person.  

 

 

What are you willing to do?

July 20th, 2016 | no comments

 

Progress is impossible without change.  
Those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.
~ George Bernard Shaw ~

If you are part of the JOLT family, you know that our Wednesday thought of the day asks “What Can YOU Do” to help another. Over the past month, I think it’s safe to say that we’ve all had a reality check about how the world needs our love and kindness. Reflecting on what we can do needs to become part of our daily life.  Further to that, we must be willing to translate our thoughts into action.

Today, I am asking you to reflect on your willingness to listen, to try, to consider and to compromise. Truly, this is the first step in lasting change.

I’ve been exploring my willingness to consider the opinions of others this week, and it’s been an illuminating and humbling experience.  I started with politics, being frustrated with the stalled conversations and ugly rhetoric. Let’s face it, it’s getting a little messy around here with all this mud-slinging.

What I found was this; I do sometimes close my mind, and show a lack of willingness to listen based on my belief system. I also mentally chastise those of opposing beliefs for behaving exactly as I do.  And that is not going to fix anything.

It’s time for change.  It’s time for compromise.  And I’m willing to do what needs to be done to play my part.  And you?

Take some time today to reflect on what you’re willing to do to send love out to your fellow man.

Kelly