Tuesday, December 4, 2018
I watched or should I say binge-watched, “13 Reasons Why” on Netflix, just over the summer. At the time when I was watching it my emotions had been all over the place. But this time, THANK GOD, I was in an UP period.
As the show begins it gives you an out. A waiver. A disclaimer. A strong advisory. ‘This show deals with suicide, and thoughts of suicide. If you or anyone you know have these thoughts, do not watch it or do not watch it alone.’ I think it is a great advisory and truthfully all shows on TV should come with some sort of disclaimer like this. Warning the viewer of what they are about to see. Without going into detail, some things we need to be warned about. Especially these days. Since “everything” has to be included. Moving on….
But the show sends a warning to the viewer that what they are about to see, deals with suicide. And that it does (spoiler alert).
The show is centered around a teenage girl who committed suicide and prior to doing so, lists the 13 reason why she felt the need to do it. Without going into it too much, certain people (including friends) find out that they were one of those reasons.
What a terrible thing to find out, to discover, that you were one of the reasons that someone would choose to die. That someone waited until they took their own life to tell you how they really feel. How you really made them feel. Not that you are responsible for what someone feels, but yet I beg to differ. You. are.
God has placed each one of us into the life and/or lives of other people. You’ve heard it said often enough, I’m sure… no man is an island. God allows our paths to cross with the paths of others for various reasons. Sometimes they are simply to cross, just so someone can see a smile, feel a touch, hear a friendly voice. Other times people are in our lives so that we can make a difference in how they think, how they process things, how they interact with others. Sometimes it is so that we can learn valuable lessons or speak of shared experiences. And sometimes it is so that we can just show that person some love. Some kindness. Show them that someone cares. Most times that is all that people need to know is that. Someone cares. That they are important. That they matter. To someone.
We never really know how or will never know why someone chose to take the route of suicide. Just the thought that someone could be so lonely in their thoughts, in their heads, at best, scares most of us. At worst, makes us feel vulnerable. So we often run from it. Shirking the responsibility off on someone else, or worse, to themselves. The lonely (or depressed) individual who simply needs affirmation. “I am not responsible for how someone feels,” I hear. No you are not, directly, but you are responsible for helping them to continue to feel that way (or not). You may be responsible in changing a thought or opening an eye to someone’s pain. There is a reason God expects us to be our brother’s keeper.
Kate Spade, the designer, had a husband and nine-year-old daughter when she committed suicide earlier this year. A note was found , although the police never revealed (to the public, anyway) what was in it, as to why she did it. Why would a successful woman whose business was thriving, who had a daughter that I’m sure loved and depended on her, and a husband … why would she commit suicide? From what I’ve learned, she and her husband had a few marital issues, but they were nothing to consider suicide you would think. Or maybe they were. To her.
We don’t know what captures the mind of a person. Why they respond the way they do to things. Why some things hurt and others don’t. Why it matters. There are so many factors to consider. There was a part in the movie, which I won’t share in detail, where things someone else wouldn’t even be moved by, troubled her. We are all wired differently, but we yet connect in so many aspects. Even if unhealthily.
Certainly, problems in marriage, a lack of communication, someone not feeling attractive or wanted, having low self-esteem, could be more than enough for someone who battles with depression to consider suicide, but as I thought more of this, why wasn’t the love for her daughter enough? (But that’s my thinking). Maybe suicide is a selfish thing.
And I suppose in some ways it is. It is taking an easier way out for yourself. But it is a permanent escape from a temporary problem. I believe people who battle with depression and suicide, don’t really want to die, they just don’t want to live with the pain they are going through, no matter what the cause may be. No matter the reason(s).
In my walk in this shadow of grief, I have come across quite a few mothers who have thoughts of suicide, who have actually attempted (and succeeded) suicide, because the pain in losing a child is a far greater weight than one can imagine. I know this for a certainty. Many times, medication is a MUST to escape the pain and the thoughts that come along with this grief.
There are people who suffer with depression, like I often have and do, like the girl in the movie, because they want so much to be loved. People who are searching and longing for someone to notice them. To be a friend. To talk to them. To see them. To love them. And because they don’t get the attention they crave, they feel non-existent, as if their life does not matter. And eventually they believe it so much, it becomes real. And there is no way out to them, but suicide.
This is the holiday season and unfortunately as we get closer to the day, it will bring a whole wealth of emotions for many who battle with depression and thoughts of suicide. And so I appeal to you all today. Pay closer attention to those around you. Look a little harder and a little longer in someone’s eyes. They truly are the window to the soul.
We really never know what people are going through. Many do not share it, choosing instead to fake it. Wearing a smile on the outside, when inside, that smile and everything they know are turned every which and what way. Give a little more these days. Stretch yourself a little further to help somebody. Smile more. Speak words of kindness and affirmation. Somebody needs you. You.
In spite of what people declare, especially those who are “self-acclaimed”, you are responsible for someone else. It’s selfish to believe otherwise. Ultimately yes, they are responsible for the decisions they make, but you can make a deposit in that decision process. You can have a say in what they decide. In what they hear. In what they feel.
Somebody needs you. Somebody needs to know that their life is worth living. That they are loved. That they are accepted and that they are not alone. And you can be a part of the ONE reason why they choose to live. YOU may be the only reason they need.
In the shadow of my grief,
Joseph Malik Fannell
1/14/93 - 6/5/15
Wednesday, August 15, 2018
Just over a month ago was my nephew Mike’s wedding. He found the love of his life in Jenny Cirksey and he married her. I was honored to attend the wedding and help wherever it was needed, while my hubby, Jeff, officiated. This was his (our) second wedding in six months.
Weddings are exciting times. Much better than funerals. Seems we have gone to, too many of late to mention. With weddings there is so much fun, so much excitement, and sometimes a little drama, but there is always so much joy. Even with the planning that goes on behind the scenes. The thought process of what it takes to plan a wedding. Having a vision of what the bride wants and being able to pull it off, takes incredible thought and work. But to see it all go as envisioned, that is joy unspeakable.
Even the finances it takes to plan a wedding. Some, anyway. The elaborate and the grandiose, the flowers, the DJ, the photo/videographer. All of it costs money. And these days, it can easily be upwards of 20-30K. Nevertheless, it is all part of the excitement. Side note: You don’t have to be extreme to have a great wedding. My hubby and I spent less than $5k on our wedding. Got married in the backyard of the “garage” we were living in. It was anything but extravagant. But, it was memorable. It was exciting, and everyone we loved that we wanted to be there, was there. And guess what, we’re still married. Thirty-six years later. So many people spend so much money (and time) on their weddings and are not even married anymore. They invested in the wedding ceremony and not the marriage itself. Life happened. Things came up. Finances came to a head, one of the major issues in troubled marriages, and if they would have had half the money they spent on their wedding, maybe they would still be married or at least not fighting over the little they had afterwards.
Mike’s wedding was fabulous. It was elaborate. It was high-end. Very much so. My niece Kelly got married as well, just a few months before, that I was also able to help plan. Her wedding was just as spectacular as Mike’s. And my hubby and I enjoyed ourselves. At both. Especially given the few times we have had to do so in the last three years. We took pictures. We smiled, we laughed, and we even danced. We had genuine fun. And it did our hearts good. It made my heart smile.
But after all this, I awoke the next morning, sad. So very sad. It’s an amazing thing that even in the midst of feeling joy, you can experience pain. I had a deep cloud of darkness hanging over me while I looked out the window that morning and saw the sun, which could not be any brighter. It was as if the universe saw my heart and was trying to work itself through its darkness, overcompensating with the brightness of the sun.
The excitement of the wedding, (weddings), even as I type another nephew is getting married next year, which I will once again get to help plan; only highlights even more the absence of my Joe. I have five nephews. Each from a different one of my seven siblings. One married. One marriage to come. And another one, possibly on the horizon. And I can’t help but think and wonder about my Joe. How he would react to all this. Would he be next in line to catch the bug? Or would he have already been married by now? Funny, but ironic, that just a month before he died, he spoke of what he would wear to his wedding and how he wanted his dad to wear a white suit. (Joe, dad finally wore all that white we laughed about). All these thoughts flooded my soul. And I missed him.
I miss him. I miss that I will never know. I will never get to know. I will never have the answer to those questions. And I will never be able to witness the moment, as my siblings have, (and will), their “sons” getting married. I will never feel the excitement of planning his wedding and hearing him say ‘I do,’ to the “woman” he saw fit to `take the place’ of his mom in making him a better man.
And that’s where it hurts.
Yes, I’m happy for my nephews. I’m happy for my niece. I’m happy at the thought of marriage and excited about the planning stage and grateful that I have an opportunity to be a part of the process. So grateful. And I suppose I will be even happier when my girls find the one in whom their soul loves, too. And while I miss my Joe tremendously, and seemingly more and more with each passing day, their weddings yet helped (and help) to ease the pain… because although I am planning for them, I am planning as if I would for him. With all the excitement and love I have. From this day forward. Until.
As I continue to walk in the shadow of my grief,
Joseph Malik Fannell
January 14, 1993 – June 5, 2015
Tuesday, June 5, 2018
This was the day. May 22, 2018. Almost three years to the date that Joseph was killed, this day, we finally got to face the man who killed my son.
I hear you ask, “Why do you reference him that way?” You see, though that man has a name; that name that personified the life he had prior to Joseph’s death, changed, the day he decided to run that red light. He killed my one and only son and that day, June 5th, (three years ago today) his name was changed. The man who killed my son. And it’s no longer a matter of forgiveness or moving on or any of that, for those that do not understand. I have forgiven, and my life has moved on, albeit, involuntarily, but it doesn’t change the Truth of that day nor of what happened, no matter what I call him or what his name is.
Our lives, our family, was forever changed that day. June 5th, 2015. No longer can we refer to things as they are. (Even that man’s name). Because dates like June 4th, the day of the incident; June 5th, the day of Joe’s death and May 22nd, take on new meaning. We now refer to our lives in reference points… before Joe’s death and after it. Terms like prior to, following, when [he was still here], up until, have become a permanent part of vocabulary. All kinds of references that point to his death. His absence. His not being here.
May comes calling and it isn’t the same. I hear Happy Mother’s Day from only two of my children, which only highlights that Joseph is gone and he will never utter the words, thank you Mom, again. His death has made a permanent scarring, where in subtle ways, these reference points play prominent roles in our lives, in network names and hashtags.
May 22nd, 2018, the day I saw my son’s killer for the first time ever. May 22nd used to have a whole other meaning for me. It was the day my husband and I decided to get married. The day of the proposal, over 38 years ago. Now it has become the day I finally got to see the man who killed my Joseph during the first day of his trial. Even our Anniversary, May 15th is thrown in, in the midst, and has become bittersweet. I’m happy and sad at the same time.
My birthday rolls round, still May. May 29 comes, and there marks the beginning of a cycle of remembrance. The cycle of remembering every single last detail of the events that followed that day. Reference points. How Joseph gave me a gift, “But it’s green,” he said, “Green is your favorite color.” So thankful that wisdom got the best of me, and I saw his heart of love in it hugged him and thanked him for the thought. Then it was time for dinner. He sat next to me at the restaurant we favored, as he normally would, asking me how the lump crab that I ordered tasted. References. Permanent marks on the calendar of my heart.
I remember the next day. May 30th. Another mark. We got up early that day and drove to Virginia to celebrate a friend’s 50th birthday. Joe didn’t come with us, choosing instead to stay at home. And we didn’t see him again until Sunday morning at church, as we got up early that morning to make it there in time for Sunday morning worship. That was May 31st. The last day that I would see him. The last time I would hear his voice. Another reference.
That Sunday afternoon on May 31st, I had not spent too much time with him, but enjoyed listening to he and his dad as they watched or prepared to watch a basketball game that would lead up to the championship later that week. Crazy, how this year the same teams are in that exact position.
And Sunday night. The last Sunday night I would ever get to see him. I remember saying ‘I love you Joe’ before turning in for early morning travel to Chicago the next day, June 1st, and hearing him say, from the doorway of my bedroom, “I love you Mom.”
And as much as I love the ‘On This Day” app on Facebook, I so dreaded seeing pics to remind me of that final week. May 29 – June 5, 2015. Last Tuesday (my birthday), to this Tuesday, the date of the day my Joe died. And really not looking forward to the next seven days either, because June 12th rolls around. The day we buried him.
Reference points. All of them. Times and dates permanently etched into my memory bank.
May 22, 2018, a reference point. Yet another “after Joseph’s death.” Another day added, rather changed, on my calendar. The day I faced the man who killed my son and actually realized he didn’t matter anymore.
June 5, 2015, 3:22pm. Marked. Scarred. Forever referenced, as I continue walking,
In the shadow of my grief,
Sis. E and Joe’s mom
Joseph Malik Fannell
January 14, 1993 – June 5, 2015
Thursday, May 24, 2018
Joseph’s trial is over. Although Raymond Blinn, the man who killed my son, never admitted verbally what he had done, justice has been served.
No, certainly not the kind of justice that I dreamed of, what I wanted nor even the kind that could ever bring Joseph back, but a peace has been restored, that only God could bring. And for that I am grateful.
The judge read the determination… “It has been determined by the State of New Jersey, County of Burlington, that in the case of Evelyn and Jeffery Fannell, on behalf of the Estate of Joseph M. Fannell, as the plaintiff vs. Raymond Blinn, the defendant Raymond Blinn was responsible for the wrongful death of Joseph Fannell.” Not that we needed a court to determine that, but this land is governed by law, as unfair as it
may be is, sometimes.
After 2 ½ years those fighting on behalf of Blinn, finally came over to extend their long-awaited sincere condolences and apologies and with them all of a sudden, so did Patricia Blinn. Before I realized it, she was right there, in my face, greeting me and extending her arms to hug me.
A quick glance and all I saw was my daughter Brandi, as her eyes welled with tears and the next thing all I could do was hug that woman, the wife of the man who killed my son. First with one arm, which quickly extended to the other. I grasped her as she expressed her apologies at the loss of my son. Sharing from a mother-to-mother stance, and that she had a grandson the same age as my Joe. Here in this moment, what I wanted from the very beginning and never thought possible, not only an apology, but I saw firsthand in myself, the grace and mercy, love and forgiveness of God. The thing we talk about often but far less often, practice.
I was reminded of so much in that moment. The forgiveness of God and how in spite of what we do, He always extends His arms (both of them) to hug us. And God also told me this, in that moment, that I wanted from the very beginning, I did not receive until I let it go. That it wasn’t until I let go of receiving an apology, that I got one. It wasn’t until I said out of my mouth, ‘Raymond Blinn didn’t matter anymore,’ that it really didn’t. The whole time, the last three years, it has been a part of my confession, that driver never apologized. And it wasn’t until I changed that confession, progress took place. God reminded me that true forgiveness is receiving an apology that you will never get. And that’s what I did when I finally said, “I don’t care about the apology.”
And then God said this. And I often tell women how special they are in the eyes of God. I say it to the women in my church, I say it to the women at the Tea, however and as much as I’m led to. Women really are special in the eyes of God. We have His heart. God said, it was because of Abigail, the wife of Nabal, that David did not kill him. She went ahead and asked for mercy on the behalf of her husband. And because of that, her husband survived. God said it was because of Patricia Blinn, that her husband received the grace he had been given. It was because of her that he received forgiveness.
And it was because of God, that I was able to extend it. Only God.
God can do nothing for me, until I recognize the limit of what I can do for myself as a human being, which allows Him to do the impossible.
Forgiving, letting go and extending grace to the man who killed my son.
He is forgiven, because I am. And because I am forgiven, I am free. Justice (for me) has been served. And I believe that is what Joseph would want for any one of us.
Sleep in peace my Joe.
His mom, and the Lord’s servant,
Joseph Malik Fannell
January 14, 1993 - June 5, 2015
January 14, 1993 - June 5, 2015
Tuesday, March 20, 2018
Woke up this morning with an all too familiar weight. A heaviness that comes in waves and sits on me. Collapsing me into seemingly a fetal position, rigid and unable to move. I hate waking up liking this.
Just coming off a trip to the Dominican Republic, Las Terrenas, known for its scenic landscapes, white sand beaches and clear water. For me it was the land of the beautiful beaches. Mi Paraiso, I called it. Stunning and breathtaking. Seems as though no matter where I am, or where I go, I will not ever and cannot escape the precious memory of my Joseph. Not that I will want to, ever… But even there he was in my thoughts as I compared where I was, my paradise to his. And I will certainly take his any day.
There are just some days that the memory becomes overwhelming. Locking me back to the day. I wake up and the first thing I sense is his absence. How his young and promising life was stripped away on that road. Taken by a man that lived his…
I remember the day I was told, the phone call I received, as if it were yesterday. It doesn’t matter how long it’s been (for anyone on this road called grief), two years, forty-five days, seven months… the day is like yesterday. The whole scene plays over in my head as if it’s a recording, never missing a beat. “You need to make your way back home,” the doctor told me over the phone, as I was over 800 miles away. The anguish of knowing I needed to get to him, immediately, flooded my soul.
There’s no more video game playing late at night, as I hear him laughing with his friends through the Xbox. There’s no singing in the shower, when I walk in the hallway near his bathroom. His room is not messy anymore and I don’t have to tell him, “Joe, pick that stuff up off the floor.” He left his room neat that last day, signifying even the more, he was not in a rush to work that morning. He was on time. For an appointment he didn’t even know he had. Sigh.
Joseph is not in his room. He is not home. He is not here. And his absence is so very present this morning. Again.
I remember my last birthday with him, just days before the “incident.” (If only I could turn back time). The gift he gave me, which at first, I didn’t understand and let him know. But grateful I had the wherewithal to thank him. I treasure that gift. The green duffel bag he gave me, because my favorite color was green. He knew that.
I am reminded this morning of the last words from him, as I said goodbye that Sunday night, “I love you Mom.” And that would be all I would hear, as he was gone the following Thursday. Joseph was funny that way, he didn’t like me checking in on him, when I was away, and so, this time, I didn’t.
I wake up and I remember every. single. detail. And it still hurts as the reality continues to settle in. Continues to dig its hole. Continues to get comfortable. This is it. Joseph is gone and try as I might to escape, these days will always be on the horizon and I am forced to accept what I never imagined to be.
On days like this, I wake up and I miss him with every breath that I take. Every fiber of my being yearns to see him, to hold him, to hear his voice and to feel his bear hug. Every breath that I take, it feels like I’m gasping for air and it hurts. To breathe.
And I HATE waking up to this.
In the Shadow of Grief,
Sis. E and Joseph’s mom
Joseph Malik Fannell
1/14/93 – 6/5/15
Thursday, January 11, 2018
Read something this morning: "Your faith struggles because it sees that moments of splendor, when your spirit is filled with Him, are immediately followed by the deepest darkness."
This text comes from a daily devotional I just purchased and began reading for the New Year. Today those words and others jumped at me, in particular "I fill you to the full with My light so that I can uphold you in the darkness."
Do not forsake the time you have with the Lord, even if a few moments. Those moments are your life. The Word is your life. God will speak words to you that will very often bring you over and through your trials. It may appear that it is not something you need to hear at that very instant, but believe God and know, it is yet something your spirit needs to hear. Allow Him to speak to you, to minister to you. In that quiet time, let Him show you His goodness. Let Him remind you of Who He is and what He is has brought you through.
I say all this to say this... before Joseph died, God was preparing me. He was filling me up with His spirit, filling me up with His power. Filling me up with His Word. Filling me with His light. 'In the darkness, My light shines bright.' Little did I know, He was strengthening me for the darkness that was to come. So, when it hit, when Joseph was killed, and that wave of darkness tried to drown me, dealing with Joseph's death, his funeral, the burial, and even all the human betrayal that came afterwards; I didn't lose it. I was not destroyed. Because God had filled me with His light. And that light overcame that darkness.
Yes, it might have looked a little dim at first, but it was yet enough. For even in the deepest darkness, if there is a flicker of light it will be seen. That darkness is not enough to keep you in the dark with just a little bit of light. So, though that darkness came, God's light in me overshadowed it by far and caused me to live.
God's Word is true, just as this devotional spoke to me today, "the time in the descent of darkness is temporary. It's a time that always ends in triumph." Things may not be what you want them to be. You may find yourself in the dark. But you’re yet here, because that light in you overcomes that darkness. And though you are there today, it’s only temporary. You will get through it. For thanks be to God Who ALWAYS causes us to triumph in Christ Jesus, the Light of the world!
And there shall be glory after this.
'Cause God is real, (in the darkness) and in the shadow of grief,
Still a servant of the Lord, and Joseph’s mom
In memory of
Joseph Malik Fannell
1/14/93 – 6/5/15