Tuesday, June 20, 2017
Many years ago, there was a song called The Great Pretender sung by the Platters. Many of you know me personally and know that this song is not quite my generation. I belonged to the more disco and original hip hop era. Anyway, one morning during my devotional time with the Lord, God spoke to me and said that’s what you have been these days. The Great Pretender. As I was taken aback a bit, the Lord told me, as He often does in situations like this, look up the words. And so, I did.
Oh yes, I'm the great pretender. Pretending that I'm doing well. My need is such, I pretend too much. I'm lonely but no one can tell….
I stopped there and questioned the Lord a bit, reminding Him of just how real I have been. Am I not honestly telling people how I feel? Am I not telling them what this grief walk is really like? Am I not yet declaring the Truth of Your Word? How am I pretending, Lord?” And the Lord answers because He knows everything. “You seem to be, what you’re not, you see… you’re weary, but no one can tell.” Yes, you are doing all those things, but at the same time, you are yet holding back. You’re only telling half the story. You’re giving them glimpses of what it’s like, but not presenting a full picture. You’re only telling what you want them to know. Amid everything that I am bringing you through, you are pretending that you’re doing well. You’re pretending that everything is yet okay. Yes, I am good. Yes, I am God and people need to know that. But if you hold back the depth of your pain, you will be holding back the depth of MY deliverance. Stop covering up the wound. You will not heal completely, if you keep hiding what really hurts. Reveal it. Be honest with yourself. Be honest with Me. Let others know that you are not okay, but you can be. You shall be. Confront the pain so it can be dealt with. Pain is not pretty. Glossing over it does not help you, just like semi-gloss. It doesn’t make anything look better. It doesn’t hide imperfections. It merely tries to give it a shine. This is REAL TALK.
Ouch. Oh, yes, I'm the great pretender. Adrift in a world of my own. I've played the game, but to my real shame. You've left me to grieve all alone…
You see it was just a week ago that I found out about the death of Anthony Rodriguez, my neighbor’s son and a childhood friend of Joseph’s. To hear him tell it, as he relayed at my Joseph’s funeral, Joseph was his best friend and they became friends, simply by riding their bikes together in a circle, for a week. 😊 That’s what he said. And they remained friends throughout high school. So Joseph’s death hit him hard. His mom told me of how he struggled with Joe’s death and even just talking about him. She told me how Anthony wore the green bracelet every day, that the New Jersey Sharing Network gave us for donating his organs, and how much Anthony loved and guarded the bowtie of Joe’s he wore to Joe’s funeral and how no one could touch it or Joe’s funeral program. It was because of Anthony and Joseph that my family and I became friends with the Rodriguez family. He was our neighbor, he was Joseph’s friend and he was only 24. The age Joseph would have been today.
I had heard that Anthony went into the hospital complaining about a headache only to never return home. He died June 10th of unknown causes, just two years and five days from the date Joseph died. His death hit us almost as hard as it hit his family, as we relived every single moment of Joseph’s last days leading up to his burial. So many similarities between the two, the timing, the people, the service… the last time we walked into that church was the day we buried our own son. Have not been there since and here we were having to come face to face with this again. And the pain remains the same. Yet another person had to bury their child. Their 24-year-old child with a lifetime of things to accomplish and memories to make. Just like my Joseph. “These things should not be,” I repeat to the Lord, for them, as I have done for us countless times before. A parent is not supposed to bury their child. And so, as I woke up this particular day, I could not help but feel tired. I could not help but feel bloated, overwhelmed, shaken. Weary. Once again overshadowed by grief.
For two years I have struggled with Joseph’s death. I still have my questions. I still have my doubts. In the midst of my joy, I still cry. I still sit awake some nights. I still want to hide and stay in the bed some days. Losing a child, grieving a child is like a never-ending nightmare. You sleep, and then you wake up to find that the nightmare is real. Your child is still gone. What you believed could never happen, would never happen, happened and you are yet here to face it, to continue to live it, every day God gives you.
Too real is this feeling of make believe. Too real when I feel what my heart can't conceal.
And as much as I fight to overcome on a daily basis, sometimes moment by moment, I am yet faced with the harsh reality of this is how it is. And so, I continue to push. I pretend. I put on the smile that I’m expected to wear. I put on the clothes that help to brighten my spirit. Wear my bowties in every way I could find, in my ears, on my fingers, on my neck, on my nails, on my wrists, with my wallet and pocketbook. I do the things that seemingly make me happy or used to, like shopping, puzzles or silly little Facebook games. And all the while I still have this thing gnawing at me called grief.
Yes, I'm the great pretender. (Just like the Lord said). Just laughin' and gay like a clown. I seem to be what I'm not, you see. I'm wearing my heart like a crown. Pretending that you're still around.
And now since the pot has been stirred up all over again, all the things and in all the ways that I have found to adjust, I am yet forced to find another. But I won’t do it by pretending. I won’t do it by offering to be someone that I am not. I won’t do it by giving simple words of platitude or by using cliché church sayings. I can’t do it by the rules of society and who says what, or where or how things must be done. I can’t do it by being politically correct. I won’t pretend. I can’t pretend. I can only do it by being me. I can only do it by revealing the pain that it caused me. The pain of the gut-wrenchingly honest, take your breath away, truth about death. About grief.
And then as I do, and as God did for me, with the comfort that He has given me, I may be able to be a comfort to others. Without reservation and without pretense.
No more great pretending for me.
Sis. E and Joseph’s mom
Joseph Malik Fannell
January 14, 1993 – June 5, 2015
Thursday, December 22, 2016
Death has hit my family and I once again as we faced the burial of my brother, Mark, Monday, December 19th, just days before the celebration of the miracle of Christmas.
Almost seems ironic to write that in the same sentence, death and celebration; death and miracle; even death and Christmas. But isn’t that what the idea of Christmas brought? Death. God sending His Only Son Jesus to be born into the world, to live a sinless life and become a sacrificial lamb, to take upon the sins of the world and to DIE, so that we ALL may have eternal life. Even those the world counts unworthy. Those like me. Wretched one that I was. But God.
The miracle of Christmas… Jesus coming to earth and being born TO A VIRGIN in a manger. The celebration of Christmas… remembering what it means that “Unto us a Son was born, unto us a Son was given and He shall be called, Wonderful, Counsellor, Prince of Peace, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and of His Kingdom that shall be no end.” Death and Christmas… the reason Jesus was born. To die. To save the world from their sins. Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now I’m found, was blind, but now I see. Christmas!
Now I know just the idea of Christmas gets some people worked up. I hear it all the time. Oh, it’s a pagan holiday! Jesus wasn’t born on December 25th! Christmas is so commercialized. Whatever. For those who want to deny it and refuse to celebrate it for whatever reason, it’s insignificant to me, really… Jesus WAS born. It doesn’t matter the day He was born, Sunday, Wednesday, or Thursday. It doesn’t matter the date, the 22nd, the 25th, the 14th or the 31st; the time, or really the time of the year. Don’t get so caught up on that or you’ll miss the message. JESUS CHRIST WAS BORN. For if you deny that you deny His very existence. And He had to be born FIRST, so He could die. And with that death, came victory. OUR VICTORY. Our victory over death. O, death, where is thy sting?!
Death and Christmas equals victory. Victory over oppression. Victory over sickness, victory over poverty, and yes, victory over death. Yes, victory over death!
This I know is an extremely hard concept to grasp, as the disciples told Jesus, we’re going to have our faith increased to grab hold of it. And I have struggled with that over the past year and a half following Joseph’s death, and then my mother-in-law’s death last Spring, and even now with my brother’s death, in this season we call Christmas. The time of miracles and celebration.
But at the same time, I can’t help but to be encouraged, because in the words of Jeremiah, “This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope, it is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed. His compassions fail not. They are new every morning.” God is faithful to remind me of this Scripture that He gave me as part of a foundation when He first saved me over 16 years ago, 1 Corinthians 15:55 “Where, o, death is your victory? Where, o death, is your sting?” I really never understood why, being a baby Christian at the time, but He has always spoken from it and continues to do so time and time again, reaffirming that death is NOT the end. And it has been defeated, no matter what it feels like in the natural.
While we ache for our loved ones on the earth (as I do), it stinks and it does sting (in the natural). But as we are called to be spiritual beings, believing what the Word says, death has no victory, therefore it has no sting. Because not only has it been defeated it is NOT the end. Life is only beginning for our loved ones. And if we receive Jesus and believe what He has done for us starting with the miracle of Christmas, we will see our loved ones again. God put in motion a plan to defeat death in the miracle of Christmas! Because of Jesus Christ being born. And it worked!
Because of Christ, because of Christmas, even because of death, our loved ones that have gone on and received Jesus are in a far better place. A place as the Scripture says, where there are no more tears, there is no more sorrow, there is no more pain, there are no more meds to take, there are no more breathing issues, or cramped legs, or legs who cannot move or legs that give out. There are no skin diseases, lesions or conditions or the like. There are no cancers of any kinds, brains are operating and people are in their right minds. There is no more worries… no more drama. NO MORE DEATH. Death has been defeated!
First Corinthians 15:51 says, “Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’ This is what just happened to my brother (and Joseph, and your loved ones, too). When he fell asleep, when death came upon him on this earth, his body that was perishable, mortal (able to be destroyed), was then clothed by GOD, with that which cannot be destroyed, with that which will last for eternal. And death, his death, has been swallowed up in victory! It has been wiped away. He has come through triumphant!
And from that point of view, I can say just as Paul did, “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? And thanks be to God Who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” A reason to celebrate the miracle of Christmas, even NOW and always.
Blessed Christmas and peaceful season,
Wednesday, December 7, 2016
This Christmas season marks the second year that I am without my Joseph. The second Christmas that my family and I were robbed of the opportunity to celebrate with our loved one. The second Christmas the man who killed my son, gets to celebrate with his family, while… well… we don’t. And although the season is barely getting underway, already somehow it has taken a toll on my emotions.
In the whole first year that Joseph was gone, I not once broke down while I was out. Oh, don’t get me wrong! I’ve shed a tear or two. Was saddened. Was shakened. And even felt like screaming. But never have I gotten to the point where I came to a complete standstill, so totally lost in my emotions, that I had to flee from my environment. That’s where I was yesterday. That’s where I was again today. Not a good place. And one I’d rather not visit.
As I mustered up the strength, again, to gather myself together, I was mindful of what brought me to where I was…. The season we are in. The celebrating (or not). The holiday music and songs. The Christmas trees, lights and the décor. People coming together (or making plans to do so). All.of.it. Then I heard a song on the radio. “This Christmas.” A classic. Only this one was the version sung by Chris Brown, when he sang it for the so-named movie. You see, that was Joseph’s favorite Christmas movie of all time. And unlike probably the rest of the world, the best version of the song he ever heard. (Still shaking my head about that one). So when I heard the song immediately I thought of Joseph and what may have made me smile last year, made me sad this one. Extremely.
The more time passes, the more it seems to hurt. (I have to say this again and I can never say this often enough, TIME DOES NOT HEAL ALL WOUNDS. Only God can do that). But I yet know that it’s a different kind of wound, a different kind of hurt. A different kind of pain than that initial one. Than that one that takes your breath away. If I had to explain it, it’s more of a learning how to breathe with a new heart kind of pain. Like you can breathe better, but it pinches when you inhale. Yeah. That kind of pain. You feel better, but it yet hurts.
Anyway. Once I gathered my thoughts together I started reflecting on the time of the year and the season that we’re in. And God spoke. ‘Tis the season to be mindful. Even for me, even for us, we need to be mindful of others.
Christmas, the holiday season, is one of the loneliest times of the year. It is also a time where people become stressed out, more so than other times of the year. People are depressed. And although people tend to believe that suicidal rates are at an all-time high this time of the year, they are not, but this is the time of the year that propels them into depression. Then over-time, thoughts of suicide become more apparent as distractions from the holiday disappear. Be mindful of people. Those who are alone. Those who have more on their plates than they usually do or perhaps more than you do. Look out for them in some way or see if you can lend a helping hand, or ear.
This season people are more prone to crime than other times of the year. Those that don’t have money who would more than likely steal, steal. Those that you would think would not steal, but want to “give” to their loved ones, steal to do so or even to make ends meet during the holidays. Be mindful of them. Maybe you can offer to make a meal or buy a toy for a child.
People tend to socialize and drink more, so there are more driving accidents. There are more distractions now more than ever. People are Facebooking live while driving. Side note: PLEASE… DON’T DO THAT! I take this very personal. Joseph was killed by a driver who ran a red light! Do not believe for one moment that it cannot happen to you or you will not be the one who will kill somebody else. NO-THING is that important that you have to FACEBOOK LIVE while you are driving.
The holiday season is filled with people who have lost loved ones (as myself). There are people that have gone through separation, kids of separation. There are people looking in the face of eviction or who are already facing homelessness. There are some who have just suffered major financial stability, lost jobs. And there are some that have just been diagnosed with health issues and are battling some real diseases. This very season. Be mindful of their suffering. Of their sadness. Be a little more kind. Smile a little more. You may never know what that might mean to someone.
In the midst of your celebration, remember that someone else may not feel like celebrating. Or like me, they may want to celebrate, but as they try to, it causes them pain. Be mindful of that. In the midst of your singing, someone else is crying. Be mindful. In the midst of your decorating, someone is packing up their belongings to be stored away somewhere until they can find a place to live. Be mindful of that.
I am certainly not asking for anyone to do anything for me or anyone else for that matter, that the Lord has not moved upon them to do. I sincerely believe that when the Lord tells us to do something it is not a burden and that no matter what happens, absolutely nothing and no one, can stop you from doing it. So please, this is not what this writing is for. I do believe that God wants us to be mindful of others going forth. Especially now. Especially in this season. Christmas is a time of giving. It is a time to show forth love. Sacrificial love. Isn’t that what Christ did for us?
Lastly, I was reminded of a word that my hubby shared in 2008, “A Tale of Two Seasons.” (You can find it on our YouTube channel, here, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ex-1-o0KScc). God is amazing, because as I got this written word in my spirit, this sermon popped up on my timeline. I encourage you to watch it, because in it, Pastor Jeff speaks about how God tells the story of Christmas and how it is two seasons. One where people are happy, and another where people are not so happy. There are people who were angry, like Herod (who wanted to kill Jesus) and there were people who were grieving (all the mothers of the babies who were killed by Herod, and some others). And then he goes on to say how God wants us to be aware of it. For a reason.
Jesus is that reason.
‘Tis the season… to be mindful.
Sis. E and Joseph’s mom
Joseph Malik Fannell
January 14, 1993 – June 5, 2015
Wednesday, May 18, 2016
I was looking at some pictures of us; some before Joseph pics and some after Joseph pics... (funny how grief causes you to measure life by the before and after). I saw one in particular and immediately heard, ‘that’s a perfect picture.’ In the same instant I turned away from it and said “No, it’s not, it’s incomplete. Joseph is missing.” And then God said, “Just because the picture is incomplete does not mean it's not perfect.” This was April 3rd.
Since then I’ve been struggling with that thought and even mentioned it to my husband the other day. I have been asking the Lord to reveal to me what that could possibly mean, because in my own head it makes NO sense. How could a picture be complete if someone you love is not in it? How could the picture be complete, knowing that Joseph is not here with us?
Anyway, I was reminded of a photo that I saw that a Facebook friend posted of her and her daughter. She is a beautiful young lady around my youngest daughter’s age, and she takes a lot of pictures. But this picture in particular was an absolutely perfect picture, I thought. Though they posed for it, you can tell it was random. Not "set up." You could see the love in her eyes she had for her little girl and the admiration and love the little girl had for her mom. It radiated from the inside.
God spoke this to me. We try so hard to take what we deem a “perfect” picture with our cameras and even with our life. We have to make sure the lighting is right, the setting is perfect, and even how we look, choosing to delete the photos we say are not so good.
Real life isn't like that, though. We are not perfect. We don't always have the right setting or conditions and don't always look the way others think we should (or even ourselves). Sometimes things are just ugly. Sometimes we have blocked the lighting, allowed other things to interfere, or things happen that keep us from smiling so “perfectly.” Pictures are moments frozen in time. An idea captured with the eye of a camera lens. Some of those moments are good, some not so good. And we deem them so or incomplete, because in that moment of time things are just not the way we want them to be.
But if we were to prepare for the picture, the beauty of being who we are on the inside will be lost, the reality of what we are feeling won’t be seen, because the photo has been set up.
God said yes the picture is incomplete, because that is how you see it. But the picture is yet perfect, because perfection (and He had me look this up) is a process or condition where things are presented as faultless as they can POSSIBLY be. Perfection is a state of creation, it is active.
We smiled in the picture. And our smiles may not have been what they were before Joseph, but the love that we have for each other yet radiates from within and that is what makes for a perfect picture.
We as a people, we as a family are not perfect, but the picture that we took, is presented as perfect, because we, in our life after Joseph, in that frozen moment of time, are being as free as we POSSIBLY can be from all the defects in our life. All the things that are not so perfect, having to live without Joseph.
Just because the picture is incomplete, does not mean it’s not perfect (or beautiful). A very hard saying as Peter said, but one I choose to believe and walk in. By faith.
So today, May 18th, as I walk in the shadow of grief, I purpose to live to allow for that random picture (even if it doesn't look too good) and learn to value the moments that are captured that couldn't come out more perfect if I tried.
A servant of the Lord,
All rights reserved.
Joseph Malik Fannell
January 14, 1993-June 5, 2015
Friday, March 4, 2016
One thing about grief and suffering, is that it can cause you to lose sight of God, bringing you into a dark place, a place of hopelessness. A place of loneliness, a place of unspeakable sadness and even deep depression. Funny thing about dark places, not many want to join you, or are even willing to visit. “Don’t invite me to your pity party.” I hear; but that dark place is far more than a pity party, it’s a PIT.
I recently found myself there… in a pit, that dark place, that no one dare treads, nor even has the courage to do so. You see it would take too much of a sacrifice. One would have to avail themselves, avail their time, their vulnerability, in order to sit with you there. They might have to put themselves in your shoes and feel what you feel. A little too close for comfort for most. Just think of Job’s friends, oh they were with him in the beginning, but when it got to be too much for them, too much to try and understand, the questions and the doubt reared their ugly heads.
You can’t blame people though. Most are not wired that way and many cannot handle the burdens they have not been asked to bear. So if I didn’t realize it before, this journey called grief, is a solitary one, especially for those who don’t know of anyone who has taken the trip. It’s a long one and far too often, one of silence. But somewhere in the depths of heaven, there sits a God willing to travel with you. Problem is, you may not always know it. So during a recent Bible Study when our teacher was led to go out of order with a series we had just started, I finally felt like someone was trying to climb into my dark place with me. And not only were they trying to get in there with me, they were trying to bring me out.
You see every Wednesday we have Bible Study at our church. The “Real” Happy Hour is what God renamed it one day, because my hubby, Pastor Jeff shares truly from the heart of God, and it really does make one’s soul, happy. Far better than any wine, any liquor could do. Jesus is the bread of life. Jesus is the Living Water and He refreshes our soul every time we ask for a drink. But it’s not just Pastor Jeff whom God uses, the congregants all get to share in the discussion as well. It’s a full participation class, where each one of us are allowed to ask and answer questions, as we purpose to learn Christ and encourage each other.
Every now and then, Pastor Jeff finds a teaching series and lesson handouts are issued. Pastor Jeff began a new series a couple of weeks ago, Busyness: Finding God in the Whirlwind, and having led Lessons One and Two, he passed the baton on to someone else, who was led to teach from Lesson 6, throwing us off course, and so I thought.
When I saw the lesson title, “Remain in Conversation with God,” I must admit, I felt a little like Sarah, who laughed when God told her she was going to have a baby. I heard God say, “You’re coming out of that dark place” and it caused me to chuckle in my spirit, sarcastically of course. You see to remain in conversation with God, means we have to take the time to practice His presence, which simply means checking in throughout the day, just like you would with anyone else you love. And in my dark place, God and I were not having conversations, we were having monologues, where I would tell God my issues (and even those of others), without taking the time to listen to what He had to say about them. A conversation is a dialogue, it’s communication back and forth between you and somebody else. Clearly this was not what I had been having.
So we’re doing the lesson and our teacher for the night, begins to tell us about David’s whereabouts when he wrote this particular Psalm, 16. He was in a cave, a dark place and he was praising the Lord, focusing on Who God is in spite of what he was going through. And as I am sitting there, listening to the Lord operating through His people, I heard the Lord say again, “You’re coming out of that dark place.”
That lesson was all about David having been attacked and not wanting to die, seeking to find refuge, not really in the cave, but in God. Some of us, as I have, go into dark places, seeking to find refuge, but we’re not focused on God, we die, involuntarily perhaps. We never come out, instead we fall into a pit of depression, never to be the same again. We give up the little life that remains inside of us, and sometimes we even take it ourselves, because the pain, the attack, is too hard to bear.
But God came into my dark place, as we went on with the Bible Study and others had shared what David might have been feeling and what it must have been like. And in the midst of it all, as my own husband shared, David yet found a way to praise God. In the cave, in his dark place, he yet had a praise in his mouth.
Certainly it is by faith he was able to do this, and it is by faith we will be able to do so. The Word says, the just shall live by faith. When everything around us screams otherwise, when everything around is completely opposite of what we want it to be, when everything around is dark, and it feels like we are in a pit, a cave, hiding, our faith says, God is yet good and God is yet worthy of praise.
Forgive me Lord. You are my Rock. You are my Strong-Tower. You are my Refuge. My Lord and my God. In You, I find hope.
Following the death of our son, I have been on some kind of rollercoaster ride. Joseph died on the 5th of June. Whenever the end of one month and the beginning of another appears, somewhere in the middle I remember and it stirs up all kinds of emotions in me. And while people tend to stay away from me during this time, it only makes me more mindful, as I struggle to catch my breath, remembering to breathe. It’s an effort to do so. Because each moment I don’t, I am drawn closer to a cave, to a dark place, desiring to hide from the attack of my emotions.
So during this Bible Study, as my sister began to share what was in her heart, she told of how when she first came to the church, just two weeks after Joseph’s death, and all the while she’s been there (8 months), when she looked at us she would wonder how we were able to go on. She asked of the Lord, truly desiring to know. She didn’t just feel sympathy, she wanted to feel what we felt. She wanted to know what it was like. She asked of the Lord, she said, “How are they able to cope?” She said that she could not imagine the pain. And that is when I knew she got into that cave with me, because she had been asking the Lord so much, she had been earnestly praying for us, the Lord allowed her to feel it. And she relayed the story of how in a dream she just had less than two weeks ago, she lost her son. And then she told of how the next day the sadness was overwhelming. All day she felt that pain, and it was ONLY a dream! But she understood. And it was then, I felt the presence of God, the love of God, pull me out of my dark place.
Such a heart of compassion our God has. Such a demonstration of love. Seeing someone hurting so badly and caring enough to want to relate to it. And do. Sometimes that’s all we need. Somebody to understand. Who wants to understand. That’s what I needed to bring me out. Someone willing to go in there to me. God knew it and He provided it. The Word says (and I’m paraphrasing) “We do not have a High Priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses.” Jesus is not so far removed from us that He cannot feel what we go through. He did and He does.
“You’re coming out of that dark place,” He said. And to remain in conversation with Him, I say, “Oh, yes I am.”
God is good and God is real, as I continue to walk in the shadow of grief.
A servant of the Lord,
Copyright 2016 Evelyn Fannell
All rights reserved.
Joseph M. Fannell
January 14, 1993-June 5, 2015
Tuesday, February 9, 2016
Grief is not a disease
If you go near it you’re not gonna “catch” anything.
Yeah, you may be forced to deal with some emotion
You may come face to face with some sadness
I suppose a little too much for your comfort
But I promise you, you won’t catch anything
It’s not like Chicken Pox
It’s not contagious
It’s not the common cold
Air-borne, and bound for anything in reach, breathing
Grief is not a disease
If you touch the person that’s grieving
It won’t happen to you
Simply because you reached out to them.
I promise you, you won’t catch anything
It’s not a disease
Grief is the emotional outcome of a circumstance
An involuntary state of mind that one finds itself in
Resulting from the death of someone they loved
Someone that loved them
Knowing that for this time they will never be able to see them again
That there will never be another opportunity to eat with them
To say simple things like hello, good morning, good night…
I love you
Because the final farewell has been said
And they are no longer where they’ve always been
That’s what grief is
A yearning, a longing for what was and can no longer be
A deep sorrow beyond human explanation
And human touch
And no, you can’t catch it.
Yes, you might feel it.
And it might leave you feeling a certain type of way
Feeling lost, feeling a loss… for words.
But times that by about a million
And you might have a sense even if for a moment of how the one who is grieving feels
It’s not a disease
But it feels like one to them
Especially when they’re treated like it is
By those who stay miles and miles away
Keeping them at arm’s length… not wanting to get too close
Not even by phone
Grief is not a disease
It’s not a condition. It’s not a disorder.
It’s not terminal.
And I personally want you to know, you can’t catch it.
But even if you could, you won’t
…you’re not that close.
Copyright 2016 Evelyn Fannell
Here it is. The day I waited for, 23 years ago.
The day you would be born.
It was going to be a glorious day!
Having two girls already, “this one,” I said, “will be my boy.”
Dad wanted you so badly.
Oh yes, he certainly loved his girls (back then and even more so now),
But he was relieved and so happy when you were born.
And the possibility of having to put another dollhouse together, disappeared.
Now there would be blues and greens, maybe some purple and orange, but not pink everywhere.
There would be cars, planes, trains and action figures around the house, taking the place of Barbies.
Race tracks to put together!
Even I got excited at that prospect.
Our son was born. We had a baby boy!
I remember the plan we made before you came.
I would go to the hospital of my choice and pretend to be in labor,
so that you wouldn’t have to be born in the city hospital we couldn’t afford, anyway.
Little did I know the joke was on me, because when I got there, I was in labor.
They took a sonogram and told me I was having a girl even at that last minute.
“Oh, no I’m not.” I told them. “You’re wrong.”
Even daddy made jokes about it and said I had to change your name.
But I told him, “Nope. It’s a boy and his name will stay the same.”
J Malik Brandon Fannell, that’s what it was to be.
Too much distress on my body, so they had to take you.
And there you were. My boy!!! Our boy!!!
Just like I said. In spite of the doctors.
And all I could do was laugh.
I think dad chuckled too.
We were so happy!!!
Dad shouted to the rooftops, “No more dollhouses to build!”
And he changed your name.
Let’s name his Joseph.
So instead of the J, it was Joseph.
Joseph Malik Fannell.
Though I wanted you to have a piece of daddy’s name, the Brandon was removed.
Dad wanted you to have a piece of his dad’s name.
But something was wrong the doctors said
I don’t understand. You cried like the other babies.
But you weren’t like them.
(Even then you stood out from the rest).
You had to have surgery.
Three, before your first year of life.
A rare condition you had.
Requiring a specialist.
You were so very special. So very unique.
We just never knew how true that would come to be.
Growing up, we laughed with you.
We cried with you.
You had certainly had your share of spankings.
And we cried for you. As parents would say.
“This hurts me more than it does you….”
So many memories.
The time you fell off your bike and caused me to faint,
Because of all the blood.
Wasn’t really that much but it could have been to me.
When you bumped your mouth on the bathroom sink
And cracked your tooth in half. Twice.
I remember you “living” outside.
You were out there so much.
Climbing the vine bricks in the backyard,
Digging up bugs in the ground and playing with them
Calling them your friends.
Funny, you wouldn’t go anywhere near one later in life.
I remember how you used to ride your tricycle in the house
And slam into the door whenever daddy was trying to study.
How you ran to the window in the excitement of seeing your grandmother.
“Ahma’s car! Ahma’s car!” is what you would say.
And how we couldn’t pass a McDonald’s or Dunkin’ Donuts,
Having to take the long way home..
For fear you would cry out, “Hamburger, fry” or “Doh doh”
I remember the way you loved your sisters.
Adoring them, even as they made fun of you, in almost every gathering.
Whenever I tried to take a picture.
How you would secretly ask me about dad
And the things he did when he was younger, with me,
So you would know how to treat your girlfriend.
How you admired him from a distance.
Telling him so, “in your own way.”
He knows that now. For sure.
I remember watching you teach Christian basketball
And ran him until he was tired.
Making sure every basket went in the hoop a certain amount of times, straight
Before you let him come in the house.
So many memories.
Oh how you loved them all. How you loved us all.
I saw it in your eyes.
I remember the birthday celebrations of yesterday,
Watching you get older with each one,
How you always had the biggest smile,
Especially when we got it “right.”
And gave you the perfect gift.
I remember one year though, we didn’t quite meet that expectation
And you let it show.
You were like that Joe.
So honest in your emotions with us.
So much so, I often wondered how you hid it so well with others.
But I realized it was a gift.
Whatever you felt when it came to others,
Tucked it away so it could be used later.
As you delivered those spoken words so effortlessly.
“Do you really think I have a talent?” you asked me.
“Oh yes,” I said, in my effort to encourage you.
“Just being able to remember written words like that, is a talent.
And then to recite them, page and page of text, so fluently,
That’s a gift.”
You used that gift well.
Even if it was only for a short period of time.
I believe you touched more lives in your 22 years
Than some do in a lifetime.
To look back now and to be able to see just how much you’ve done
Makes me so very grateful.
So here it is. The day I’ve been anticipating,
What would have been your 23rd birthday.
And you’re not here.
Who would have imagined that I’d be here?
That we would be here.
I ask myself, can we really say Happy Birthday to someone in heaven?
How do you celebrate?
We can celebrate your birth and the fact that you were born to us.
We can celebrate the life that you had, the person you were,
And the delight you have given us.
Those words of Michael Jackson could not be more true for you.
For you were…
Born to amuse, to inspire, and to delight.
The road was never easy, but it was worth it and very well tread upon.
Because of you.
Happy Birthday in heaven, Joseph.
You will forever be 22, but you will forever be celebrated.
Rest in peace. Sleep in peace.