Happy 13th birthday Nick

imageMy cup ran over with JOY 13 years ago today as we welcomed a precious baby boy to our family.

A baby brother.

my boys

Meeting big brother…

Truly, a gift from God.

He is a beacon of light that would draw me from bed in my darkest days of grieving through the loss of a big brother.

He is medicine for my grieving heart.

He is a thousand reasons to smile.

He was an amazing little brother and he is an extraordinary big brother.image

His love for God and love and compassion for others inspires me to be a better me.

Thank you LORD for this gift. This blessing.

Ps 23:5b “…my cup runneth over.”

We love you! Happy birthday Nick!imageimagezack10001.jpg2010-05-09-13-13-302.jpg

My friend Grief

Making the most of every moment.

My friend, Grief, is visiting today.  He woke me up by banging intensely on my door last night. He likes to wake me up. We have become steadfast friends. Sometimes he stands in the corner and watches me. Sometimes he leaps suddenly into the middle of whatever I am doing – unloading the dishwasher or the washing machine, sometimes in a song or in a smell and causes tears to flow for seemingly no reason.  Sometimes he whispers to me but last night he shouted until I got out of bed. His persistence in being acknowledged is aggravating.   

I wondered if 330am was too early to drink coffee but Grief didn’t think so. Coffee always helps me pay attention and he wanted my full attention. I pulled up a chair and invited him to sit with me.

Sometimes he makes my stomach hurt. Sometimes he makes me cry. Sometimes he makes me question everything I believe about life and death. Sometimes he makes me feel guilty for feeling happy. Sometimes he makes me feel better about my new normal. And sometimes he makes me feel worse about my new normal. Sometimes he dances at my pity party.  Sometimes he just watches me cry. Sometimes he nudges me if I smile too much.

In the wee hours of this morning, Grief reminded me that today at 4am- Nick is 12 years, 8 months and 11 days old – the same age Zack was when he died.

I didn’t think I could bear to go on without Zack yet here I stand with my friend, Grief.

He reminds me I will always be broken. I tell him I don’t need reminding.

He points out people who are complaining about everything and nothing and I feel bad for feeling resentful toward them. “Perspective,” my friend Jennifer points out. I don’t like my perspective.  

Grief points out my weakness and my flaws. He knows me well. Sometimes he fades into the background but he never goes away completely.

Today, he is here.

Today, Nick skis on a mountain that a big brother loved.

Today, a little brother Zack never met, plays in the Utah snow that Zack loved.

Today, a mommy and daddy choose to live fully and intentionally because a little boy died.

Today, we still celebrate the short life Zack was given.

Today, we press on through the pain of losing him and use that pain to fuel our journey.

Today, I am thankful for the 12 years, 8 months and 11 days I got to be his mom.

Keep watching, I tell my friend, Grief. Watch me shine bright! This pain, this pain which isn’t as raw as it once was, will not be wasted.

2 Corinthians 1:4-6

Zack skis Deer Valley with his Daddy.

Zack skis Deer Valley with his Daddy.

 

Grief cannot steal our joy!

Grief cannot steal our joy!

Nick on the mountain at Deer Valley - wearing Zack's old ski pants.

Nick on the mountain at Deer Valley – wearing Zack’s old ski pants.

Mayo and Sam playing in the Utah snow.

Mayo and Sam playing in the Utah snow.

Bring on the Scary

We overcome fear when we keep God near...

Kings Dominion  roller coaster

Kings Dominion

Halloween brings out the scary.  Scary costumes. Scary movies. Scary stories.

A lot of things used to scare me.

But, I’m a lot braver than I used to be.

I used to be scared terrified of roller coasters. 

When our younger son, Nick, was too little to ride, he was my excuse.  I had to wait with him. And we would wait and watch.  Zack, our oldest, would exit the ride with my husband and he would be crazy-filled with excitement – telling me all I had missed. Once Nick was big enough to ride, I had no excuses. That’s when Zack laid on the guilt trip – saying he would have to ride by himself or with some stranger if I didn’t ride with him because Nick was riding with Daddy. He would tell me not to be scared and insist it would be fun.  Reluctantly, I would agree to ride.

If you give in to fear, you will miss the moments.

The “click” of the bar made me realize I was strapped in so tightly I could barely breathe. Suddenly, the ride began to move and I realized I was holding my breath.  My heart pounded wildly as we inched slowly up the hill. Zack giggled beside me as I quoted scriptures-convinced my life was at stake.  My stomach remained at the top of the hill as we descended at a rapid rate! I screamed so loudly Zack covered his ears. I strained to see what was ahead as we started up yet another hill. I couldn’t see what was to come.  I could only look behind and around me to see how far we had come. It was a brief distraction from the rising hill but it didn’t stop the hill from coming. I leaned in hard to Zack’s shoulder with my eyes squeezed tight. Uncontrollable screaming and laughter flew out of my mouth as I held on to him for dear life. Up and down – this way and that way…never knowing when it would end.

Screaming. Laughter. Scared. Excited.  

Then it was over.

And I wished it wasn’t. 

And then Zack was gone but I wasn’t alone.

We overcome fear when we keep God near.

I suppose once you have ridden the scariest roller coaster of all, the other ones aren’t so scary anymore.

We must trust that the Lord is with us on this roller coaster called life….even when it doesn’t feel like it.  

Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand. – Isaiah 41:10

Fear is powerful.  Fear can stop us or get us started.  It can push us to chase that dream, ask that girl out on a date, write that book, teach that Bible study, quit that job, ride that roller coaster. Fear can push us to living fully or it can keep us simply existing.

God didn’t put us here to simply exist. He has a beautiful purpose for your life – for my life – our precious, loved and purposeful lives. And – yes, there is purpose in the ugly, the painful, the unbearable and the frightening… and even in our shattered hearts.

Living in fear is like being in prison but our faith in God is the key that set us free from our fears. His Word tells us not to fear hundreds of times in the Bible but our human nature is to fear. There will be times in life where our fear paralyzes us and we can’t read our Bible, we can’t bear to think of what lies ahead and we can’t even pray… but God still hears us and we can choose faith over fear.

I sought the Lord and He answered me.  He delivered me from all my fears. – Proverbs 34:4

We overcome fear when we keep God near.

What fears are holding you back?

Ernie and Nick

Ernie and Nick

Roller coaster ride of pediatic cancer...

Roller coaster ride of pediatic cancer…

Let God Fill the Empty

gravesite at christmas

The soft ground presses down under my feet. Perfectly placed poinsettias dance in the wind. Nearly every grave site shows signs of Christmas. Someone still remembers. Someone still misses.

We stop in front of Zack’s headstone and Mayo squeezes my hand. That squeeze shouts to my aching heart but quiet fills the air around me.

I wrap the tiny strings of light around the green wreath. The emptiness of the battery compartment is obvious and I wonder if emptiness is always obvious.

A tear slips out as I push in the batteries to fill what is empty.

Empty.

You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water. Psalm 63:1

And the lights on the tiny wreath twinkle full of life.

Full.

Mayo lovingly attaches the Christmas wreath to a plaque stand next to Zack’s headstone then he grabs my hand and squeezes. Again.

And I feel love. I see love. And there, in that moment of love, I spot God, enthroned in the emptiness.

When we let God fill our empty with His presence, He equips us to face the physical and emotional emptiness of loss.

You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In your right hand there are pleasures forever. Psalm 16:17

How can you let God fill your emptiness?

A Moment She Remembered

Earlier this month, a friend of Zack’s assignment for her 9th grade English class was to choose a moment in time that she remembered in detail and write about it. She chose to write about Zack. She was kind enough to share her writing with us.

We are honored that she selected him as her moment and thankful to know his friends still remember.

I thank my God every time I remember you. ~Philippians 1:3

May you all be blessed by our friend, Abbey Crisp, today.

Abbey Crisp
February 3rd
Honors English

At the end of my 5th grade school year something happened to someone I cared about and it changed me. I met my friend, Zack Mayo in Kindergarten and we were good friends throughout elementary school. We both attended Parsley Elementary and had most of the same teachers. We became pretty good friends and hung out together sometimes! I even had a crush on him in 2nd grade. He was in a horrible accident and from then on, his life was different.

I remember exactly where I was when I found out that he was hurt. I was in the car at an intersection in Crosswinds taking my sister’s friend home. I remember my mom stopped the car on the side of the road and we prayed for him. I was really scared for him. I hadn’t talked to him in a while because I had just moved schools the year before and I didn’t know what to think about the whole thing! The thoughts that were running through my mind were scary and sad. I had never known anyone my age that had been hurt really badly before and things just seemed to get worse and worse. Zack’s mom was updating everyone on Facebook and I just remember looking for her updates so often. Zack almost died several times. It felt like we prayed for him all of the time. We were all so worried about him. He was taken to Chapel Hill where they found out that he had liver cancer and the scooter accident had punctured his tumor.

He fought the terrible disease for such a long time. He was so strong and brave and taught me so much about finding the best in even the worst things and about having hope and faith. His family was with him every minute and never gave up on him. His younger brother, Nick, loved him so much and looked up to him for so many things. I learned to appreciate life, my family, my friends and just everyday things. I know that Zack is in heaven and that I will see him again one day. I still think about him often when I hear certain songs like “I Can Only Imagine” or when I remember back to elementary school. The day I heard about his accident was a day that I won’t ever forget. It seems etched in my brain along with great memories of him.

Thank you Abbey for allowing me to publish this on my blog. You are a blessing!

Abbey and her little sister.

Abbey and her little sister.

zack today

Coat of Arms by Zack Mayo

Today I am sharing something Zack wrote.  It was one of his last assignments for fifth grade.  The accompanying picture is the shield he drew to go along with it.  His principle, Robin Hamilton, sent it to us with his report card when he was in critical condition in Chapel Hill.  We desperately needed to see it that day. Zack, on a ventilator, was not able to speak. Doctors were not hopeful. In reading this, his voice was heard loud and clear and gave us strength for the journey ahead. Now, with him gone, it strengthens me even more.

Be blessed.

Coat of Arms

By Zack Mayo

1024

There are a lot of things you probably do not know about me. You might know that I live in a family of four with my mom, dad and little brother. But, those are just things on the outside. I am going to tell you about things on the inside.

My shield is outlined in blue because I think it is an audacious color and I like to be audacious most of the time. I also used it because it starts with a B. The letter B stands for brave and I am very brave and will help people with the things that you need to be brave to do.

The big M in the middle of my shield represents my last name. My last name means a lot to me because I love my family and care a lot about them. I help them when they’re in need and comfort them in hard times. The “M” is also very important because it represents my loved ones.

The golden cross inside of it represents that I am a Christian and that I love to go to church. It is gold because the color gold is a very bright color and the color of great things. I also like to encourage people to go to church.

The circle on my shield represents that I like my life to keep on going. I like to try new things every day and I want my life to keep going and going forever. That is why I put a circle on my shield.

I put a golden star on my shield because I like to be a shining star in everything. It’s golden because the color gold stands out and I like to stand out and for everything I make to stand out. It also represents that I like to be the star in most everything.

Well, that’s just about everything that makes me the person that I am. Not just on the outside, but the inside too. I plan for my shield to change all throughout my life as I try new things and overcome more and more challenges.