A Despondent Heart

My heart is despondent.
When I write I always have in mind three things to accomplish: Share my true heart, share the raw story, and seek God's insight in everything that happens. This is not what I have in mind for this post
I have no insight, inspiration, perspective, Biblical revelation to help me overcome my despondent heart.
A dear mentor of mine recently called me out for cursing in the most public place ever: Facebook.
She said she understood how I must feel, but that it wasn't ladylike and I shouldn't lose my sweetness.
But you see, I'm going through the stages of grief, though not in the right order. Now, this is no excuse or justification for foul language; it's just the reality of where my heart is.
I don't know if you can call hopefully pleading and praying as denial. Bargaining and depression came later, and I am stuck in anger.

Here is the post that sparked the admonishment.

My post was edited to the present #cancersucks. 
That was not my post. 
My sentiments matched Kinsley's mom's sentiments: F*** cancer! 
I even wanted to write it in caps as well.
I felt like a hypocrite changing it to what it is now. 
I feel upset changing it.
My heart is pounding fast and strong while yelling it in my inside. 
I want to scream it with all my might at the top of my lungs for everyone to hear.
I want Him to hear.
I want to scream it... to Him.
I don't blame Him for cancer.
I am not angry with Him for her and me getting it.
I am angry at cancer.
I am angry she could not be spared.

Was that really my denial stage? Knowing the doctor's had said in September there was nothing to do for Kinsley and still pleading to You with all my heart everyday for a miracle? Was it really useless and was I in denial?

I asked You to bargain with me. Take me instead.
With so much at stake, I still asked you to take me and leave her.
I didn't even want to enter surgery knowing there was more doctors could do to try to save my life, and Kinsley was dying that morning.

I am not sure I am over depression. I'm stuck between the two, anger and depression, like the psalmist stuck in the slimy pit.

Kinsley's mom posted this picture a few days ago. The picture is from when a pre-cancer Kinsley met her little sister.
Kinsley should be here.
She should be playing and being an awesome big sister.
She should be brightening everyone's day with her big smile.
Goodness,my despair feels deep and it's but a drop in the ocean her mom and dad feel.

My heart is griefstricken.
I find no solace.
I look at my two girls and remember the similar posts of them like the photo above I shared.
But my girls have 50% chance of having my cancer gene.
They have 1 in 2 chances of having to walk this cancer journey.
I want to spare them.
I can't protect them.
I want my girls to save up money to get marry, start a family, buy a house, take their dream trip. I don't want them saving money for their breast implants and mastectomies.
I want them to live long and well, not age prematurely, like I am, from getting their ovaries removed.
And what if my life is claimed in one or two years? What will be of them?

"Don't lose your sweetness," my sweet mentor said.
"There is no sweetness left after cancer," I replied.
My goal and pursuit has been kindness.
Diplomacy is as close as I've gotten.
Will I be able to get to sweetness?
Cancer took sweetness away.
Kinsley was sweetness.

I don't mind someone reminding me not to sin in my anger.
I just wish she had used a different word.
"You don't look ladylike," she said.
Ha! That is an understatement.
The pain from my scars makes it hard to walk erect.
I have my flat chest, hunchback, pregnant-looking belly (from all the swelling), tomboyish short hair, and dark circle under my eyes from almost a year of bad nights. I am the furthest thing from ladylike.

I'm bitter.
Like Ruth's mother-in-law Naomi, whose name means sweetness, I want to be called Mara (bitterness) for the Lord has dealt bitterly with me
I mourn Kinsley as I mourn the babies in my dreams I can no longer birth.
Where once I felt pure joy and endeavored to pray fervently for them, now I feel envy and anger when my friends announce their pregnancies.
I know I am blessed. I know there is much to be grateful for.
I look at my daughters and know I should feel bliss.
I try to find my way back, my mind back.

I am not rejecting God. If anything, I am talking to Him more.
I am just..... angry.
Is it wrong?
I guess it is normal for a child to get angry at her parents.
I have a two year old with anger issues. I mean clench her fist, dog-like growling, you-are-dead-to-me stares, feet stomping, banshee-type screaming angry.
The last time she had an anger episode I held her from the arms and pulled her close while she kept screaming. I started praying. "I don't know what I am doing. I don't know how to guide her. Help me. Help me be the mom she needs." My poor little girl suffers from neglect in an important developmental year from an absent mother battling cancer. She is angry. She is demanding attention. She deserves a good mom.

Do I have a right to cry out to You, Lord, my heavenly Father?
I am not sorry, Lord.
I still want to go back an change my post.
I still want to write down my true sentiments about cancer and have everyone read it.
I know You don't approve.
Do You reproach me in my state?
I felt sorry someone would reach out to me for my language in a post instead of reaching out to love the broken.
Please forgive my weakness in my mourning.
I wrote of my despondent heart to a friend and this was her reply:

"Thankfully, our hurt, anger, doubt and questions do not upset God or anger Him. He receives them and welcomes our hearts, even when they are shrouded in pain and anger.
Continue to ask Him. Continue to shout at and wrestle with Him. Continue to speak your heart, ask your questions and feel your feelings. He will be faithful to meet you in that place.

I have no words. I have no insight or wisdom.
My heart aches for you. I will pray fervently for your heart.
I love you."

I hope she is right.
I pray time can heal my despondent heart.
I hope sooner rather than later I can reach the acceptance stage of grief.
I hope I can make sense of all this despair and grief.

I just want to thank the friend and family who have been here for me.
Thank you, Aunt Juanita, for coming almost everyday to help me with the dishes, with picking up the girls from school and caring for them, for rubbing my aching body, and being such a wonderful comfort.
Thank you to the friends that open their houses to me to escape my days spent locked in my room, to those who visit and give me wonderful company, to those who bring me food and laughter to my sullen days.
Thank you to my mom, who is my greatest strength. I know this post will make her sad because I know she wishes she was here with me. I know she wishes she could make it all better.
Thank you to my husband for sticking with me in my low.


Collateral Beauty- Movie Review

I don't know if you can call it a review nor do I pretend I can write one, but I will try to write one nonetheless. It won't be your typical review because I'm not a movie critic and because it will be very personal.
There are two reasons I feel I need to write this:
1) As soon as I left the movie theater I knew critics would be giving the movie grief. I just felt it in my gut and I was right.
2) The movie is a true gem for us, the hurting. 

Spoiler alert: This is a review for those who've watched the movie.

The movie's trailer is very deceptive, and it was the first critique the movie receives. The trailer shows us Will Smith's character, Howard, suffering from losing his child and being visited by an anthropomorphic personification of death, love, and time and engaging him in conversations. This is and is not the what really happens in the movie. Critics called this a marketing strategy to deceive moviegoers to see this movie. Why is this an issue? I don't know. Yes, it was a marketing scheme, but it in no way robbed the audience from a surprise that was gratifying to watch. 

It turns out the so called death, love, and time are not "angels" but actors paid by Howard's cowokers to deceive him into thinking he is truly speaking to death, love, and time. It was actually refreshing for me, because the former idea of the movie has been done before. This time around, we get to see the actors prepare for confronting Howard with the help from his coworkers, who happen to be his closest friends, and we get to see how the actors feel from the experience.

Death, played by the wonderful Helen Mirren, is delightful to watch because she is so excited about the part and Howard's reaction to their encounter. Critics attacked this for causing humor in situations that should be more sullen. This might be true sometimes, but the movie was dealing with a two-years-have-passed situation where some moving on should have happened. Dealing with death shouldn't always be dark; after all, it is a natural part of life for all. It doesn't cause any humorous reaction in Howard, but it jolts him out of his stuck state of mind.

Each of Howard's friends are respectively paired with one of the actors with one currently dying of cancer, one with her biological clock ticking, and one losing the love of his daughter after divorcing her mother for cheating. The critics called this cheesy and a far-fetch. How was this far-fetched? My own cancer story has deeply touched many around me even if they are not personally dealing with cancer. My writings on living each day to the fullest, being grateful for all that you give for granted, and find peace in a despairing situation strike a chord with everyone that reads them. Just because you are not dealing with a life changing situation, where everyone can see your pain, doesn't mean you are not struggling or hurting. The struggle to love well, use time wisely and not waste it, and the fear of death is universal. It was great to see these secondary characters' struggle and pain acknowledged.

The critics also jumped on the moral wagon of the wrong these so called friends where doing to Howard by making him look demented before a business board to take away from him the power of decision making. Howard's decisions have brought everyone around him to the brink of losing everything they've worked for all their life. Honestly, these coworkers should have never had to go to such lengths to take the power of decision making from him. Howard is the first to admit that and admit he was not in the right state of mind. My husband still consults me in the decision making in our house, but the power is always his. I am not in the right state of mind. Giving decision making power to someone in a bad state of mind is irresponsible and damaging to the hurting. We want to be treated like a normal person, but our helpers in this hurting time must set boundaries. This is the first recommendation psychiatrists give to help people with clinical depression or with mental health issues. I am not dealing with either, like Howard clearly is, but cancer is a very powerful blurring tool to reality.

Now let's tackle the big issues critics had with the movie. The movie gave no answers or any sort of enlightenment so Howard can come back to the land of the living. I actually found this refreshing. The woman that leads a group of beareved parents Howard joins says it clearly "There is no way to fix it. There is now way to make the death of child right." That is the main problem with those who try to help the hurting; they try to fix you. I have the tons of emails of people sending me links to the miracle pill or miracle fruit or miracle diet I should be taking to get cured. When I cry from the despair of the ongoing cancer treatment, surgeries that mutilate my body and take away any trace of my womanhood, and the permanent new me I need to learn to embrace, people around me jump to give me their platitudes: "We are all dying","You are lucky to be alive", "Don't cry, everything will be alright." "I am convinced you are already cured." "Now you can stop being afraid of death because you are in remission." And the ones that truly turn my stomach: "God gives His toughest battles to His strongest warriors" or "You are such a strong warrior." I am sorry, but I will scream in caps now. NO!!! I AM NOT STRONG OR A WARRIOR. I HAVE NO CHOICE! And the really infuriating: "Everything happens for a reason." NO! WE WERE NOT CHOSEN AND THERE IS NO REASON FOR THIS PAIN!!!

These things happen because we live in a fallen, broken world and it's part of life. It just sucks, but we try to keep living. I've said this before but I'll say it again: If you don't personally know what it's like to be in this place just limit yourself to say: "I am very sorry", "At what time can I come to your house to do your laundry, or your cleaning, or your cooking, or do your grocery shopping, or babysit your children", and "I love you." The typical "I am here for you" and "Call me if you need anything" do nothing. Don't say it, be there. And the hurting will never call for help; we don't even know what we need.

The hurting learn to take your platitudes and reply with a "Thank you", even if you don't know you are making our cross more heavy. You see, we know you mean well, but your good intention comes from a place of selfishness. You are in pain because you se me in pain. The sooner I feel better, the sooner you'll feel better, so you want to speed that process. You don't know what it's like to cry with those who cry, to be there through the tears and pain without saying anything and really, truly being there.

Howard's second encounter with death was truly beautiful. You can see he has tried. He has tried to not fear death and see it as natural. He has researched and tried to see death from the different points of views of religions and cultures. The critics said the movie's cheesiness makes you want to vomit. The only time I regurgitated was when Howard shares the ugliest platitude he has been given that is way too common: "God saw the most beautiful rose in the garden, and He had to pick it up for Himself." It makes me want to vomit that people actually say these things, and I'm glad the movie addressed them. Death says nothing. What was there to say? Time and love do say something to him around the lines of "Stop wasting the gift of time" and "You cannot live without love." This only made Howard angrier, but it caused something in him because he once again reaches out to the grieving group. 

Where is the collateral beauty? For some, like me, it's pretty obvious. For others, it's a mystery. I can still see the collateral beauty of Kara Tippetts two years after her passing. You see in the movie a parent seeing that beauty, being that beauty. You find purpose in your pain, not because that was the reason for it, but because humans are resilient and surprising. You find that beauty in the connections and the compassion you never knew how to harness before.

Death does say something, but not to Howard but to Howard's friend dying of cancer wishing, like me, to live to see his son grow up. She says "Some things never truly die." This could be a platitude if it's given by the wrong person or to the wrong person or in the wrong time. I know it in my walk with Kara. I know it in my sweet Kinsley, my four year old cancer buddy that was called home a week ago. That is the main thing Kinsley's parents have been sharing: the little ways and things that makes them know and feel Kinsley is still with them. They're never truly gone. We carry them in our hearts. 

The final critique was the movie's two plot twists. The first one, that the stranger leading the grieving group is no stranger but Howard's wife, is very plausible given Howard's state of mind and it added to the story, though I'll admit it was not necessary. The second one, that Death, Love, and Time were really angels playing actors who played death, love, and time, I'll admit was a far-fetch and unnecessary to the story, but it didn't make the movie tank. Cancer has taught me not to sweat the small things. Maybe critics can learn a lesson in that.

From someone living in a hard place, I can vouch for this movie. It was truly beautiful. There's no fixing pain and grief. Grieving is OK. At the end, all we can do, which Howard does, is go through the stages of grief, hopefully reaching the last step. We don't find answers to life and love and why. We live.

Will Smith, Helen Mirren, and Kate Winslet where a delight to watch. Critics got this one wrong. Just check most forums.

Images from Warner Bros.


The Power of Prayer

We had the infamous talk.
Not because it is necessary, but because the "what if" is always looming.
"What are you going to do if I die tomorrow?" I asked my husband.
He sighs. He hates those questions and hates that we've been put in situations that warrant those questions often these past year.
I go to bed with the question hanging over my head, but not in too much distress.

The morning of the surgery I am crying my eyes out.
I go into the OR in deep despair that is discernible in my countenance.
Everyone around me thinks it's because I'm scared. It is not.
No one makes a question and they even try to ignore my red eyes and shivering body and pretend all is good. But I went into that surgery without a single thought for myself.
You see, that morning, just minutes after I was admitted to the hospital, I read that Kinsley was dying.
We had been praying for a miracle from the Mayo Clinic. Kinsley traveled there January second. They said there was nothing else they could do. She seemed fine on her pictures traveling to Rochester. How was it that the doctors were giving her only hours left to live that morning?
"I knew it! I knew she would have a good Christmas, but that was all we were going to get," my mind raced. "Til the very end... I will believe and pray to the very end." That is what I had promised of her and of me, to believe God could do a miracle until His answer was no with one of not breathing anymore. I thought I could stay true to my promise and believe, but I was heart broken. I couldn't pray for a miracle anymore. I just writhed in pain knowing she was taking her last breaths. This was the state I entered surgery. She was the last thing in my mind before I went to sleep.

I woke up three hours later in excruciating physical pain. I couldn't speak, so I started banging my finger monitor thingy against the bed. My face again said it all for the nurse asked me if I was in pain, to which I nodded. I would then dose off after the nurse administered pain killers, and would wake up to bang the bed once more a few minutes later. This went on for various hours. They informed me they had given me plenty of pain killers that would soon have an effect and asked if they could transfer me to the room. They asked if pain was the only issue at the moment. Only issue? Let me see if I can convey the severity of my pain and only issue.

I told the nurses that a cotton belt like the ones they use on postpartum women after c-sections always helped my pain after my own c-sections. They told me a belt was waiting for me in my room. I begged all the way for them to make haste. The poor nurse trying to put the belt on me was shaking from all my pleading. "Please, get it on me. Please, tighter. Please, hurry. Please, please!" I really thought the belt would ease the pain. It did nothing. I asked for more pain killers. The doctor informed me I had already been administered three vials of morphine. They gave a fourth shot of undiluted morphine. Nothing. My pleading just continued and intensified. I didn't scream because they warned me that screaming would fill me with gas making me hurt more and longer. It was now 3 p.m. and the pleading continued with my pain not diminishing one bit. I didn't think of Kinsley in all that time. I don't think I thought anything at all. Pain was all-consuming. Pain was the only issue, but pain was all there was. The doctor gave me Fentanyl, which is supposed to be 4 times stronger than morphine. He explained that if that didn't work, he would have to give me an epidural. I wanted the epidural right away, but he said we had to wait. When an hour had passed and my pain had not subsided, I begged for the epidural. The doctor was on a personal errand and would not return for the next four hours. I was in totally agony. Such was the agony, I didn't feel a thing when he put the needle in my spine. I just kept pleading and pleading. That finally worked and I found release around 8 p.m.

Pleading. My mind, finally free to reappear, made me think of that word: pleading. "Why had I not pleaded more for Kinsley? Why did I stop begging with all my heart before the only One Who could do something? My mind went back to Giana. When she was going to have her surgery, her dad posted on Facebook asking for prayers. I remember how nonchalant my prayer was. "Please may the surgery be successful and help speed up Giana's recovery." That was it. We, his dad included, didn't even fear the surgery could be fatal; it was routine. Could I have interceded for her better? And Kinsley? I stopped rubbing everyone's faces on her dire situation in search for prayers. I should have been a more inconvenient beggar. I should have begged for more knees bent in supplication for her. My husband was the only one to ask of my tears before the surgery. When I told him the tears were for Kinsley he became exasperated with me and I became irritated with him. I should have given him more credit. I should have known he was in distress for me and had only room for that pain in his heart at the moment. His Facebook page too had requests for prayer. When he came into the recovery room and saw me open my eyes he said "Now I can breathe." This was the same remark my mom made when I came back from my second trip to the OR and color had returned to my lips and I was no longer tightening my teeth from so much pain. She too posted prayer requests in her social networks.

At 12:05 a.m. of January 6 Kinsley gave her last breath. She was six months shy of turning 5. I know the severity of my pain was closely linked to the entirety of the brokenness in my heart in anticipation to that moment. I have no idea how her parents kept breathing past that hour. I was having a hard time doing so, and I never met her. I couldn't stand the thought that I was still breathing, even if I can't yet cry victory, and she wasn't. My smiling cancer companion was no longer in this world. Before surgery I thought how I wish I could change places with her, that it be her having surgery with more to do to try and save her, even if I had to give her my chance to be saved from wretched cancer.

But the power of prayer perhaps is not in the answered prayer, but in how it makes us one. Wasn't that what Jesus prayed for us? My heart had to understand taking her was Your will, as it was when You took Giana. So, so many prayed for both. So many hearts were one for both. I have mothers and strangers write to me saying they pray for me as if praying for themselves. I believe them. I believe they hurt with me deeply when they pray for me. Prayer is that powerful. It bounds us to Your will, but places us in Your hands. Was there a better place for us to be? Is there a better place for Kinsley and Giana now than on Your hands? Prayer made me one with Giana and Kinsley. My girls know those names perfectly for they prayed with me and heard me pray for them every night. They saw me cry out in tears to the Lord for their lives like I prayed for them and myself. They prayed for them. I talk about them and think about them constantly. I am happy I carry them.

Ephesians 1
18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people,
19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength
20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms

John 17
15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.
21 that all of them may be one,Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.
22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one
23 I in them and you in me, so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

Ephesians 6
18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

Psalm 141
2 May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice.

Romans 12
12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.

Romans 8
26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.

Matthew 6
9   This, then, is how you should pray:
     Our Father in heaven,
     hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
     your will be done,
     on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
     as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from the evil one.

Please, be one with me in praying for Kinsley's family. Oh how my heart has hurt for Giana's parents this Christmas without their beloved and the memory of the accident that claimed her. How my heart hurts for the emptiness Kinsley's parents have been left with. Oh, that the wicked may depart and they could come back to us instead! But they know not anymore of suffering, despair, brokenhearted, deceit, and horrid pain. It is us who grieve and still know the tremendous pain we are left with. Pray God consoles us all. Let prayer answer Jesus´ prayer for us. Kinsley is survived by her mother Matelin, her Father Aaron, her big brother Jasiah, and her little sister Taytum, and many relatives and friends who love her dearly. I love her dearly. She is forever a part of me, engraved in my mind and heart. Pray for a cure, pray for peace, pray for rest. 
Thank you, Lord, for having formed Kinsley in her mother's womb so perfectly. Thank you for the smiles she shared with all who met her. Thank you that theirs is Your Kingdom. Thank you for your Son Who gives us hope to see each other one day in a better place with no more pain. Amen. 

Team Kinsley forever!