Monday, August 11, 2014

Putting together a beautiful mosaic

Losing a spouse is somewhat like losing a limb.  I’ve never had something amputated, but I can only imagine how searing a loss that would be.  The pain would be awful, and I would miss the limb terribly.  Also, I would have to learn an entirely new way to live without it.  Eventually there would be adjustments, but life would never be the same as it was when I was whole.  I would remember the limb vividly and all of the things that I used to do with my limb, and there would be a dull, aching sense of emptiness when events are held that are really only designed for people with all of their limbs.  I would go from being part of the two-limb club, to being just an amputee.

That’s where the comparison ends, though.  I would rather have had all of my extremities taken from me than Ryan.  Any day.

Someone used the limb comparison with me when I made my venture back into the realm of dating (more on that later).  Their words were, “Since you can date and remarry, it’s like you get to re-grow the limb that you lost.”  I understand the intent of those words.  I’m 29, and there are likely many years left in my life, and much happiness.  However, I took issue with the subject of “re-growing”.

I don’t think that there is such thing as re-growing a limb, or “replacing” someone you’ve lost.  I have a friend who is expecting a child soon, who lost her precious baby son when he was one year and one day old, soon after Ryan passed away.  Despite the overwhelming joy that she and her husband and her daughter feel about having another child enter their home, it just is not possible to “replace” the child that she had.  How could she replace him?  Why would she want to?  Her son was uniquely wired and created to be exactly who God created him to be.  In the same vein, Ryan was uniquely wired and created to be exactly who God created him to be.  He’s not able to be replaced.  I don’t ever want to “replace” him.  That limb will never be grown again, because Ryan was Ryan.

So here’s the crux of my writing today.  I have been seeing someone for a while, and things were going so well for both of us that we soon knew that we should play for keeps.  He proposed!  (I happily accepted, for the record.)  Matthew is an amazing person.  He’s kind, intelligent, calm, honest, fiercely loyal, and a wonderful, loving father to his three sons.  (You read that correctly.  He has three sons + I have one son = we have together…four…boys!)   If I might beat a dead analogy, yes, in a way, I’m re-growing a limb.  But this isn’t the same limb that I had before.  It isn’t replacing the limb that I lost.  This new chapter of my life is exciting and beautiful, and I’m very blessed and humbled that God would choose to bring another person into my life that loves Him and loves me and loves my son.  I am excited beyond measure. 

But a little part of me died recently when someone said to one of my family members, “Boy, she was quick to replace Ryan, wasn’t she?”  (?!?!?!?!?!?!)  Friends, is there such a thing?  Can you ever truly replace someone that was a part of you?  You can adapt, change, move forward, and once again find someone to add beauty and color and love to your life, but my friends…there is no such thing as replacement.  Ever.  Please don’t ever use the word “replace” with any friend of yours that has lost a child (to miscarriage, as well), a spouse, or any person that they loved past all reason.  (And when your friend is ready to face life again post-tragedy, please support them and love on them as they rebuild a life that is not centered on pain, grief, and loss.)

I want, every single day of my life, to remember the life that I had with Ryan.  I want to think of his laughter, his kindness, his fire, his inspiring words, his jokes, and his intense love and devotion for his family.  I want to cling to the ways that he influenced me.  I want to be bold as he was bold, I want to love others like he did (even if that means telling them the blunt truth), and I want to be logical like he was.  I want to tell my son all the time of how his father loved him more than he loved himself, and how joyful his dad will be when he gets to lay eyes on Colton again in heaven.  I want to continue to see life in high definition, as he showed me (us) how.

I want to love, remember, honor, celebrate, and give thanks for that part of my life.  Always.

But I also am ready to rebuild my life.  Losing the most important person in your life makes it feel like life has shattered into a million pieces.  For the past several months, I have been able to witness firsthand how a million broken pieces can slowly be put back together to create a lovely, colorful, and breath-taking mosaic - different and rearranged, and yet still good.  



For any iota of negativity that has been said to me directly or indirectly, there are countless other friends and family that have been extremely kind and supportive, and I’m very grateful for that.  Once again, I am thankful that I have such a wonderful network of people around me, praying for me and encouraging me.

I have also had many people ask me about this blog and what I intend to do with it.  I have spent some time thinking about the intent and purpose of the blog, and I’ve decided that I’m not any less committed to passing along the message of “Living in High Definition” than I was in April 2013.  God gifted Ryan and I with a unique message, and a unique platform, and I will continue to walk through whatever doors He might open regarding that message he burned into our hearts.  What does that mean, logistically?  I would like to begin writing again, and as I feel more comfortable, speaking again.  I just recently have been able to talk or write about Ryan without it feeling like I was driving a knife deep into my heart.  I’m finally able to approach the subject with a feeling of gratitude for having had him in my life, rather than deep, uncontrollable pain and grief.

I don’t believe that the story is done being written.  The Lord has pressed upon my heart that there are still many chapters to be brought forth.  I’m not sure if I’m speaking figuratively or literally, but I remain open to either.  I ask, dear readers, that you would continue to pray for me, Colton, and Ryan’s family, and my “upcoming” family.  There are many obstacles that we’ve overcome as we have learned and changed and adapted to life post-cancer, and there are many other obstacles and challenges and opportunities that are ahead of us.  But there are is one constant that we cling to, and that is the name of Christ.  As it was when I walked through the darkest valley of my life, He continues to provide the constancy, the guidance, and the wisdom for the journey ahead.  And as opportunities to proclaim the work that He has done in my life come forth, I welcome them.  I praise His name for the great things He has done, is doing, and will continue to do.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

He holds me upright.

Dearest friends, family,

I cannot thank you enough for the many messages, texts, cards, posts on Facebook, flowers (thanks, Delynn!), and other tangible demonstrations of support that Ryan's family and I have gotten from loved ones this week.  One of Ryan's former campers even wrote an open letter to her baby son about where he got his middle name of "Ryan", and it was powerful!  I still consider myself to be so fortunate to forever be linked to this incredible person that left such an indelible mark upon the world around him. Thank you, Ryan, for making us all better and for bringing glory to your Savior.

That six-week stretch of time from Ryan's birthday through this week has been challenging at times as I have reflected upon the incredible loss that we all experienced a year ago.  I am so grateful that the God I serve is the same God for which this verse is written: "When I am in distress, I call to you, because you answer me." (Psalm 86:7, NIV)  The unbelievable peace and joy that I've been able to still have even in the midst of grieving is only because of the mercy and goodness that my heavenly Father has poured out on me over and over again.  When I'm afraid, sad, confused, hurt, or lonely, He is more than enough!  It is the same way with Colton and his mama.  When Colton heard an enormous clap of thunder during a storm last night, he came running to me and jumped in bed with me.  His mom is his safe harbor.  Our God is a safe refuge in the midst of a storm (Isaiah 25:4).  I can't imagine having gotten through this past year in one whole piece without the grace and protection that I have received from God.

But I would also like to share with the readers of this blog about the most incredible experience that I've gotten to have as a parent.  This past Monday night, one year later (almost to the minute) from when Colton said goodnight to his dad, Colton prayed and asked to receive Jesus into his heart!  He was quite insistent with me that he wanted to follow God at that very moment.  I was so blessed and honored to be able to do that with my precious son.  He turns four tomorrow (April 14), and his dad was also four when he first followed the Lord.  I am amazed at God's timing, and so excited to know that someday all three of us will be together again in eternity.

Life continues to go well for Colton and I.  We've had the opportunity to travel a little more, make some memories together, and we have had people come into our lives that have been timely friends and have brought much joy.  Colton still asks about his dad a few times a week, and we get to have wonderful conversations about his dad's character.  He did go through a period of time not that long ago where his sadness about his dad was perhaps a little overwhelming to him, but now he seems to have evened out a little bit.  He is doing amazingly well and I'm grateful that God seems to have given each of us (and also gave Ryan) a little extra share of resilience when he created us.

Again, thanks to all of you for continuing to pray for us and to think of us and reach out.  I'm grateful for every message sent my way and I can feel the grace that you are asking God to give me!  With God behind me and the body of Christ around me, Colton and I continue to stay upright and moving forward.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Ten thousand, two hundred seventy four days.

How does one measure a life?

Is it the number of birthdays that we achieve?

Is it the money in our bank account?

Is it the style of our clothes?

If those are the measures of a life, then my dear husband might not have made much of a splash.  His time here on earth was short.  Today would have been only his 28th birthday, and despite the unbelievably brave effort that he put into fighting cancer (countless rounds of chemotherapy, radiation, theraspheres, surgery, naturopathy, vegan diet! - I wonder if he has yet forgiven me for that?), he did not achieve a long life.  Today that fact is weighing heavily on his family's hearts.

Money in the bank account?  We shared joint accounts.  I can attest to the fact that he and I were very much an unremarkable, middle-class family in that regard.

Style of our clothes?  I really shouldn't touch this with a ten-foot pole since beauty is in the eye of the beholder (and our opinions on clothing differed greatly), but Ryan's cowboy style probably wouldn't have earned him any style points with the fashion police.  I'll leave it at that. :)

If we measure a life, what is the standard?  I propose this:

What do you do to impact the world around you?

In only ten thousand, two hundred seventy-four days (the number of days that he lived), Ryan Prudhomme changed the world.  No, he wasn't a world leader.  He didn't have an impact on politics, government, or policy.  But for hundreds and even thousands of people, Ryan caused them to stop and think about their faith, their priorities, their families, and their passions.  He challenged us all to see the world in a new lens, in high definition, and to evaluate what really matters.  As a charismatic cowboy in the prime of his life publicly battled cancer, he invited the world to share in his hurts, his hopes, and his Savior.  And I know for many people (myself included), what Ryan did in those 10,274 days was to create a ripple effect where we now will go out and change the perspective of others around us.  So quite literally, he changed the world.

So despite the fact that the candles on his birthday cake never exceeded 27 and a few times his checking account even dipped below that number (yikes!), Ryan Prudhomme set a standard of living that I pray the rest of us will continue to strive for.  He taught us that "apart from [the Lord] I have no good thing." (Psalms 16:2), and that our ultimate purpose in life is glorify the One who created us in His image.

Happy birthday, good and faithful servant, funny cowboy, sweet friend, beloved son, devoted father, loving husband.  I am sure that your celebration today is one beyond what any of us can imagine.