Memory Closet

08 Dec

I dedicate this post to those of you who may have experienced similar traumatic circumstances and to our family and friends who hurt along with us. 

Yesterday morning, I went into the room where the boys used to sleep together. Even though there were two beds in the room, Isaac and David slept together on a twin bed during those last several months, with me sandwiched in-between as we sang and prayed together before going to sleep. If I remember correctly, it was Isaac who wanted to sleep next to his little brother since he enjoyed the comfort of being next to him.

Isaac "I'm Free"In that room’s closet is memorabilia from Isaac’s life – his creations, toys, writings and other items packed in boxes and containers. I opened the closet door and pulled down a box from the top shelf. Some of you may be familiar with that box – the one that the funeral director gives to you after the service and reception. Inside this box (among other items) is: the registration book signed by those who attended Isaac’s services; some pamphlets and bookmarks containing two beautiful poems and details about Isaac’s services and his obituary; and that document that certifies his death and its cause. As I read through his obituary again and looked at his smiling face, I opened the door to another closet – the one to my memory.

I remembered the services, where people greeted us and commented about how well we seemed to be doing, all the while we’re just numb and in shock. (Am I really burying my son? Is this real because it seems like a dream?) I remember the painful quiet after everyone was gone, going home with all the flowers, the left-over food (what a blessing) and we start to try to live our new life, taking baby steps, crawling and stumbling backwards all the way.

Then I rewind a little farther back, to the day when we were sitting in the conference room at the funeral home, surrounded by family and planning our son’s funeral service. (What?) We have to select a casket style and color, write an obituary, select a pamphlet design and poem insert, etc., etc. (Did this really happen?)

So I rewind some more, to that day – the day that everything changed. I remember driving away from our home after Isaac was transported in an ambulance to a nearby field, where the rescue helicopter would be landing shortly. We drove for almost an hour to the medical center, calling our relatives and friends along the way. All the while, I’m expecting him to live (my heart is racing as I write this). I wonder if there were angels around us, because I don’t know how we made it there safely. I remember pulling in to the parking lot at the same time that the helicopter was landing. (Shouldn’t it have been here already?) From a distance, we watched them wheel Isaac from the helicopter through the emergency doors and I was still assuming that he was going to be alright.

I remember waiting…then the chaplain walks back with me. I remember the double doors opening and there he lays – the sounds, the bright lights, what seems like dozens of people, and the lead doctor explaining how they wanted me to see that they were doing all they could but they couldn’t revive him. I see the flat line on the monitor (What? He was going to be OK – I’m shaking now as I write). I have to go back and tell my family. Then, Brenda and I are back in that room, all quiet now, Isaac disconnected from the machines, most of the people gone. We sit there and hold his lifeless body and struggle for the words to say goodbye to the son that we didn’t get to say goodbye to. And then – what’s this? – people are forming a circle around and PRAYING over us – here in THIS place? It was the beginning of God sending his messengers to minister comfort and truth to us. We go back out, tell our extended family who has come and our pastor and his wife that Isaac is gone. I remember my nephew putting his arm around his cousin, my daughter, to comfort her as she tries to comprehend losing her big brother and best friend. I see our two youngest children playing, not even sure that they understand what is happening. We make some more phone calls. This goes on for a while. Then we go home – to the silence, and we lay in bed and cannot sleep because out hearts and minds are racing. Then, when we are at our lowest, the devil sends his lying troops, speaking into our minds, trying to get us to doubt God, our salvation, our parenting abilities, etc., etc. (Where’s God? You can’t trust Him. This doesn’t happen to His children. Your prayers don’t matter – He didn’t protect Isaac.)

The next day is the dreariest, rainiest day that I can remember. We sit around in silence, while visitors come. Then another night and the condemning thoughts get louder. We are awake and don’t know what to do, so we call our faithful pastor and wife who come over around 3AM to minister truth and comfort to us for hours. But the cycle continues…

Then I rewind some more, to the moment it happened, but I won’t write about that.

(When these thoughts come, they tend to speak in the second person. I seem to be an observer watching these events happening to – me. I have to intentionally translate them to the first person when I type them. I wonder if this is because it is still difficult to comprehend the reality of what happened. Sometimes, it all seems like a dream. But writing down these thoughts helps me to comprehend the reality of my life as a bereaved parent.)

So (after I pull out a bookmark to put in my Bible), I put the lid back on the box, place the box back in the closet and close the closet door. Just inches separate me from the memorabilia of Isaac’s life. Yet, I find it difficult to close the other closet door – the one in my mind. Perhaps it needs to stay open because if I close it then I don’t let the pain out. And if I keep stuffing the pain back in the closet, then it wants to come out in other, less fruitful ways (anger). So I leave it open, so that the pain can be released and I can be healed and free.

Either I’m more aware or there are more people these days facing very difficult trials and circumstances.

I pray that you experience God’s healing and freedom, my dear reader.



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12 responses to “Memory Closet

  1. Cheryl

    December 8, 2011 at 10:56 PM

    Thank you for that beautiful post…*tears*

    Although our circumstances are a little different and the ages of our sons are spread by a few years (my Caleb being 17 months old when he died), I can relate to all of the feelings that you have described and I cry along with you at the deep trials that he has placed before us.

    May God continue to heal your special family and give you all peace beyond understanding…

    With Hope,

    • Ephesians 5:16

      December 9, 2011 at 6:25 AM

      Dear Cheryl – Thank you for your comment. We share your tears as we both miss our dear sons. There is a wonderful fellowship in the Body of Christ as we share our sufferings with the sufferings of God’s Son, although they are extremely painful and something we did not request. We pray that your memories of Caleb bring happiness and smiles and that you find healing for the painful ones. Along with you, we take hold of our Hope in eternal life.

      God bless and comfort you,
      Andy & Brenda

  2. Martha Goudey

    December 8, 2011 at 11:06 PM

    Breathtaking. Beautiful. Yes, there are many people going through trials and circumstances, and yes, you are more aware. Just this week, in our small town, an 11-year-old boy (the same age as Isaac, I believe?) died of complications of heart disease. In another family, a young father who just returned from working two years at the Young Life camp in Oregon), died of a massive heart attack, leaving a wife and his four young boys. Also in our town, another family lost an Isaac. But this was six years ago. He was 22 and a gifted musician (in every sense of the word). He was also bi-polar and his mother, a psychotherapist, could not save him from taking his own life. Six years later she is about to publish, “The Survival Papers.” That is what you are writing on your blog, the survival papers…and in the process, teaching others. Why God chose you, I don’t know. Blessings.

    • Ephesians 5:16

      December 9, 2011 at 6:34 AM

      Martha – Thank you for your comment. You helped me to realize that I am BOTH more aware and that many people are facing trials and difficult circumstances. Wow, your small town has experienced some significant trials. I was stunned to read about the 11-year-old boy who died of complications of heart disearse (by the way, our Isaac was almost 5 months shy of his 11th birthday). Please keep us informed when “The Survival Papers” is published. As grieving parents, we hope that by sharing our grief we can encourage others in their trials to turn their hearts to God.

      Thank you again and blessings to you.
      Andy & Brenda

  3. Elizabeth Martin

    December 9, 2011 at 9:39 AM

    Dear Ones,

    Thank God that you are able to share those personal private memories of “your closet.” It makes me more aware of your suffering and what you went, and are now going through. May our Lord continue to grant you healing, mind and soul.

    Give the children a hug from me.

    Aunt Betty

    • Ephesians 5:16

      December 10, 2011 at 9:01 AM

      Thank you Aunt Betty. The children enjoyed their hugs on your behalf :-).

  4. Lanny and Jackie

    December 9, 2011 at 11:15 AM

    Dear Andy and Brenda – I’m never sure of what to say or how to say it, but—-We want you to know how much we share in your sorrow and grief. Isaac was very special to all of us and his memory will never leave us. We only wish we could do something more. For now our prayers for God’s comfort and our love for all of you is constantly there.

    We love you all very much,

    Mom and Dad

    • Ephesians 5:16

      December 10, 2011 at 9:04 AM

      Dear Mom and Dad – You have done more than you’ll probably ever know. Thank you for your prayers, unconditional love and support. Even though you may not find the words to express, we know your sorrow and pain. May we continue to support each other as we walk this journey of grief together.

      We love you!

      Andy, Brenda, Isabella, David and Gracia 🙂

  5. Elaine Pack

    December 20, 2011 at 5:26 PM

    Holidays are always hard…so many memories, so many thoughts… even after 13 yr. I thank you for what you shared in this post. It ministered to me. Praise God for the hope we have in Him.

    • Ephesians 5:16

      January 2, 2012 at 11:15 PM

      I am thankful that our words ministered to you. Without our hope in God, I don’t know where we would be.

  6. *amber*

    January 1, 2012 at 10:29 PM

    I’m free is the poem I put in my husbands program for the funeral. It really touched me because of the circumstances in which he passed. He was at work, his back was turned and he left it all. I hope that the New Year went well for you, it was slightly emotional for me, a little uncomfortable the idea of leaving 2011 behind and feeling that my loved one was stuck in that year, but i’m carrying him forward in my heart. God Bless your family.

    • Ephesians 5:16

      January 2, 2012 at 11:14 PM

      Thank you Amber for your comment. We appreciate the honesty with which you share your journey on your blog. Your postings have blessed us.


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