Monday, July 30, 2007

Camps and Cruises

I was honored to be part of the Royal Family Kids Camp again this summer. I spent last week with some beautiful kids and wonderful volunteers. We swam, played, prayed and sang our way through a fun week. My brother J. and I had the privilege of speaking and leading the songs at chapel everyday. Knowing that the campers have all had difficult lives to say the least, I think God hears their praises as beautiful choruses!

I have been constantly reminded this summer why God wants His people to be part of a church body. I have watched as so many have served my family during difficult times and last week I watched His bride at her very best. People took vacation time to serve these kids. When we were short a few counselors, the word went out and three people drove in from Knoxville, TN to Texas so 6 kids would not have to miss camp. At the end of the week when I told these people they were heroes, they pointed to the heavens with tears in their eyes, unable to speak, giving all glory to God!

My sisters family is on a cruise this week with their very good friends from Oklahoma. This was a trip planned well in advance of the accident which took their Connor's life two months ago. They were not sure if they would go, but decided to give it a try. My niece Bailey will have to maneuver around the boat in her wheelchair and they will all attempt to relax and have some fun, all the time feeling the emptiness of boarding the ship with one less passenger than they were supposed to.

Please pray for them this week. And remember all the Royal Family Kids and kids like them who are being tossed around by the waves of life. May they find their life boat in Jesus.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Tod Brown Family Link

I finally put a link (to the right) to the caring bridge website where my sister's family is journaling and people can leave comments for them. Most of you have already been to that site. If you haven't yet, please take some time to look through the journal entries and the comments. You will need to have tissue handy, but you will be blessed.

God's people are blessing our family and Tod and Lee Ann continue to teach us about faith, honesty and Godly grief.

Thanks to Ben Wall for setting up the site and to Golf Course Road Church of Christ for linking it to their website. Ben, your thoughtfulness has blessed me, our family and thousands of others.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Anyone Can Whistle

I'm a born whistler. Legend has it I could whistle before I could talk. I would sit in my stroller and whistle Sweet Georgia Brown. It sort of freaked people out.

My wife tells me I whistle all the time. It's just a natural thing for me to do. I wouldn't be surprised if I whistled in my sleep. Someone told me once that a person who whistles all the time is a happy person. I think there is something to that. It's difficult to whistle when you're sad.

Yesterday I caught myself whistling a happy tune for the first time in weeks. And I felt guilty. I stopped. It's strange to me that I feel like I'm dishonoring Connor by being happy when I know he would want nothing less for me. The only way to honor his life is to live mine to the fullest. And yet I stopped whistling.

Instead I went back to my office and worked. I'm preparing for two worship services (one at which I'm preaching) and getting ready for camp next week. There is a lot to do, some of it difficult. As I poured myself into the work, I was reminded of these words from the beautifully sad song Anyone Can Whistle:

Anyone can whistle
That's what they say
Anyone can whistle
Any old day
What's hard is simple
What's natural comes hard
Maybe you could show me
How to let go
Lower my guard
Learn to be free
Maybe if you whistle
Whistle for me

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

He Should Have Been There

My sister and her family came to town this week for Bailey to see her surgeon in Dallas. Here is the report in the words of her father Tod:

We just finished with Dr. Starr. We have good news and bad news. The bad news is short term, the good news is very good. Bailey is healing extremely well. She had multiple fractures in her pelvis and they are all healing very well. The x-rays show that everything is in place and looks great. The catch is that the healing bone is still soft and he wants her to be in a wheelchair for another 5 weeks. It wasn’t a surprise to him, just to us. Our expectations of being able to walk out of his office were unrealistic. She isn’t fragile, but the risk of messing up where she is now isn’t worth it. If she knocks things out of line he can’t fix it and it will have terrible long term implications. He told her to do a lot of pool therapy. It will help when she begins to walk.

That leads to the good news. When she starts walking, (which he expects to be at the next appointment August 14) she should be off crutches or other support within a week to 10 days. That was much sooner than we expected. He also said that she should be able to have as many babies as she wants without any complications or need for C-sections. We had been worrying about it, so that is really good news. Overall we are a little disappointed with the timing, (the cruise we had planned for July 29 is still doable, but more complex and the first few weeks of school may be difficult) but very pleased with the long term picture.

My brother and his wife and Steph and me and our girls met Tod, Lee Ann, Bailey, Hutton and Reagan for lunch after they met with the doctor. It was good to hug them and look into their eyes and talk about things other than the accident for awhile. It felt good just to be with them.

But when we had to say good-bye my heart sank. I'm understanding what a heavy heart feels like for the first time. It feels exactly like it sounds. On the drive back to my office the tears welled up, the anger arose. There was a huge hole in our lunch gathering. The voice in my head was screaming, "Where is Connor? Connor should have been there!"

At lunch we played musical chairs around the table. We tried to arrange things so everyone could participate in the conversation. This put my youngest, Emily (18 mos.), at the end of the table as she didn't seem all that interested in speaking to us. I looked down the table at her during our meal and it struck me that had Connor been there, he would have sat by her. He would have given up his seat with the adults to entertain Emily. He would have known it was a nice thing to do, but his true motivation always seemed to be that he simply loved little children.

I imagine there will be hundreds more " He should have been there" moments. I can't fathom having them at every turn like my sister and her family are experiencing. It seems like a never ending series of discovering new ways to miss him. We journey on and continue to appreciate your prayers.

Monday, July 09, 2007


I realized this morning how disconnected I feel. At least I think that's what it is. I read the journal that Tod is keeping here and the comments people are leaving. They move me, but they move me as a disconnected bystander. I see pictures of Connor and pause longer than I would have in the past, but I don't feel the full weight of what has happened. I linger longer in the precious moments that occur everyday with my girls, but not longer than other people who never knew Connor and have been moved by our families tragedy. Like my sister Lee Ann I want to embrace the sadness, but I push it away at the same time.

I'm just so tired.

It was only three weeks ago that we found out Stephanie was pregnant. We were in shock. We were not planning on having another baby. Because of our history with miscarriages, we wanted to keep the news to ourselves (we agreed to tell one friend each) until we heard a heart beat. We figured our family didn't need any more bad news. Our fears turned out to be well founded. We lost the baby on Friday. It's only been three weeks, but it's amazing how quickly you get used to the idea of having another one. We planned and prayed and cried and laughed and lost. Again.

Yesterday on my way home from church I heard a discussion on the radio about names for babies. As I listened I caught myself thinking about what we would name this third child. It was like I had missed the events of the weekend. Disconnected.

I don't know how one willingly connects with that kind of pain and anger. But I fear that if I don't, it will reveal itself later in unhealthy ways. It was everything I could do not to lay into the lady working the drive-thru at KFC yesterday because I thought the price they were charging for a Pepsi was highway robbery (which it is by the way, but I knew that going in).

I've been told it is possible to mourn in a healthy way. I sense that there is no alternative; I have to journey through the pain. But everything in me wants to run away and hide. Escape. Disconnect.

Saturday, July 07, 2007


Many people have told us over the last few weeks and especially over the last couple of days that they simply feel "helpless." Helpless to know what to say, what to do, what to pray for. Helpless.

It's not a word I have ever used to describe myself. Until now.

unable to help oneself; weak or dependent.
deprived of strength or power; powerless; incapacitated.

Of course the helpless place is the very place God finds you and uses you. So if you feel helpless to know what to pray for our family, try this:

Arise, Lord! Lift up Your hand O God!
Do not forget the helpless. - Psalm 10:12

Monday, July 02, 2007

Over a Month

It's been over a month now.
Over a month since we entered the foreign land of grief and began trying to learn the language of its inhabitants.
Over a month since being inducted into the society of mourners.
Over a month since our lives were changed. Forever. Permanently.

The reality of what has happened usually hits me at night as I lie in bed silently praying. It hits me like a cold chill. It hits me like sudden nausea. It hits me like a punch in the stomach.

Each day seems to bring a new, "specifically missing part." Last night I mourned Conner the cousin my youngest daughter Emily will never know on earth. That's the two of them in the picture above. Connor had a way with little kids. He had plenty of practice with all of his little cousins and he was wonderful with them. The loss of that relationship sent me reeling last night.

I think of these words from John Irving several times a day:
"When someone you love dies, you don't lose him all at once; you lose him in pieces over a long time - the way the mail stops coming, and his scent fades from the pillows and even from the clothes in his closet and drawers. Gradually, you accumulate the parts of him that are gone. Just when the day comes - when there's a particular missing part that overwhelms you with the feeling that he's gone forever - there comes another day, and another specifically missing part."