Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Rock

I never dreamed that I would need to navigate the pre-teen/teen years without Scott.  And his absence has been hitting home to me in an increasing way throughout this first year of middle school for Jaelyn.  I am acutely aware of all the positive experiences that he is “missing” out on experiencing - going to her first school dance, seeing her really become passionate about soccer and excel at it, becoming much more independent and responsible around the house, learning to play the guitar. . . the list could go on and on.  

I truly am very proud of Jaelyn and who she is and who she is becoming as she matures.  She is a really wonderful young lady (yes I am biased) that is excelling at whatever she puts her mind to.  She makes wise choices in her decisions and friends.   That said, I could really use Scott's perspective, wisdom, and humor in navigating the social life of a middle schooler, the moods and hormones of a pre-teen, and interpreting if moods are of concern or simply normal for her age.  

I can say that there are probably two times in the last twelve plus years that I have felt truly inadequate as a parent — navigating the death of Scott and now navigating Jaelyn’s pre-teen years.  Most of parenting has felt fairly simple in that the main focus has been instilling values and morals and teaching right from wrong.  Now I find myself entering the realm of dealing more in emotions than “black and white” right from wrong.  Navigating emotions feels like walking through a minefield some days (maybe I'm being a little dramatic, but the change happened way too rapidly).  Truly I find myself literally breathing out prayers for wisdom as regularly as taking a breath some days.  Prayer is the rock that I stand on and I try to take each moment as it comes, not look too far ahead, and not overthink or under think everything — and that is certainly not as simple as it sounds.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Are you feeling down this Christmas?

It is hard to believe that we are facing our fifth Christmas without Scott.  Everyone talks about the first year being the hardest.  And in a lot of ways it was the hardest.  That first year I was numb and still in a place of disbelief.  As each year passes and reality sets in, there is a different pain.  Each year brings more and more changes, that just take us further away from what things were like when he was with us. I look at Jaelyn and realize that already a third of her life has been lived without her dad. 

Change is overwhelming and never stops coming.  Just in the last year we have said goodbye to a beloved pet and Jaelyn took a big step toward adulthood with the start of middle school.  If I’m honest with myself, Jaelyn starting middle school comes with very visible changes in worrying about her appearance, an increase in confidence, friends becoming much more important to her, and looking much more like a young adult — she is growing up and “away” from me.  Letting go is hard — whether it is in letting go and letting our kids become more independent or in letting go of a planned future that no longer exists in the same form.  If I allow myself to dwell on all of these changes, I very quickly find myself feeling down and feeling anxious.  

This year, more than ever - when I’m not “feeling” in the mood for Christmas, I need to keep my focus on the birth of Jesus and the real reason for Christmas.  Christmas is a very real reminder that this world and this life are temporary, as are its difficulties and pains.  Christmas is the hope of eternity with Christ and being reunited with loved ones.  And it puts change in perspective.  The change that God brought about with the birth of his son, the beginning of the greatest story ever told, is indescribably beautiful and priceless.  

So, while I know that I will continue to miss Scott and  have down times this Christmas, - and that is okay — I will also continue to remind myself of the truth and hope of Christmas. 

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Jaelyn - Celebrating 12 years!

Today is Jaelyn’s 12th birthday.  As I sit and reflect back over the past twelve years I can’t help but wonder what our life would be like and how different Jaelyn would be if her dad had not died when she was 7.  I try not to stay in those thoughts long as it really serves no purpose.  I can’t go back and change what happened.  What it does do is make me grateful for who Jaelyn has turned into despite the tragedy of losing her dad.  I don’t often talk about Jaelyn’s journey over the past four years as that is her story, but I think it is important to see the hope and healing that can come not only to adults but also to a young child experiencing a tragic and life-altering loss.

I remember reading a post about a year ago on a widow/widowers Facebook group about the damage to their child because of the loss of their parent.  I know this hit me very wrong in that moment.  Neither I nor Jaelyn are defined by the death of Scott and I refuse to allow that to be how we are defined.  That is NOT the most important thing to know about me or her.  

When I look at Jaelyn I see a caring, compassionate, hard working, happy, and wise beyond her years 12 year old young lady starting that transition to adulthood, who just so happens to have survived great loss in her life.  Jaelyn had all of these qualities before her dad’s death, but I believe that her growth spiritually and mentally since his death has only enhanced those qualities.  I have seen her make wise choices in the friends she has made that will surround her and influence her going through the crucial years in middle school and high school.  

When I look at how far Jaelyn has come in the four years and 2 1/2 months since her dad’s death, it will very quickly bring me to tears - tears of gratitude and thankfulness.  She pulled herself into her shell and was comfortable with only a limited number of people.  Yet God continued to bring very special people into Jaelyn’s life, who had a great impact on her healing and self-confidence.    And she has just blossomed!  From not wanting to do or be involved in anything after Scott’s death, and needing gentle pushing and prodding to do what I knew she loved, to now choosing to be involved in guitar lessons, soccer - year round, junior high youth group, Envirothon group and competitions, and Community Service Club; she is definitely coming into her own and defining who she is and what her interests are. I am excited to see what God will continue to do in her life and what an amazing person she will continue to mature into!

Happy 12th birthday Jaelyn!!!!

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Treasured Friend

After Scott’s death a lot of things changed drastically, but one of the biggest was friendships.  Some friendships disappeared in the days and months afterward — out discomfort with emotion and grief by my best guess, some faded in closeness while others deepened.  One of the surprises in my grief journey were the new friendships that developed.  One of those new friendships was truly special.  

When I look back over time, I see that God laid the groundwork for that friendship over a couple of years time.  I first met Samantha when Scott and I left Milton Hershey School and returned to Jonestown and attending the Lebanon Area Evangelical Free Church again.  Samantha was the first person to come up and talk to Scott and I and welcome us to the church.  

Two years later, in the initial days after Scott died, Samantha sent a card expressing thoughts and prayers.  A few months later, when all the initial support and expressions of sympathy had faded, Samantha sent another card, sharing that she was continuing to think of us and pray for us.  This effort and caring in particular stuck with me, as it came at a time when most everyone was fading away and I was feeling alone.   

A few months later I joined a Connections Class (Sunday School class) at church.  I specifically chose that class because Samantha was the teacher - and because of the impact of those two cards.  This was the first time that I had actually talked with Samantha since that very first Sunday back at church two and a half years earlier after leaving Milton Hershey.  Shortly after joining this class, Samantha invited Jaelyn and I to her house for lunch with her and their girls.  I’m not sure if I have ever shared as much about myself or been as open about my life and my struggles as I was in that first time of getting together with Samantha, and over subsequent get-togethers.  

Samantha is one of the most genuine people I know — both in her faith and love for God and in her honesty about her life and who she is.  Samantha has been one of the very few people in my life that have made a point to ask me how I was doing and how she could pray for me during the holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries that she knew would be difficult — and one of the few people that I felt I could be completely honest with and that she would pray for me and love me through it.  And through feeling comfortable opening up to her, I began opening up to the other women in our class and began developing close friendships with them as well.

A few weeks ago I learned that God was calling Samantha, her husband (Pastor Steve), and their girls to another church where Steve will be in the head pastor — in Iowa.  I, along with a lot of others that their lives have touched, have struggled with the news.  I am thrilled for Steve and Samantha and the girls in where God is leading them, but the selfish side of me is grieving.  The church in Iowa will be blessed by Pastor Steve and Samantha as our church has been blessed by them over the past ten plus years.  And I know that many more lives will be touched and affected by Steve and Samantha on a daily basis.  

Tonight was a bittersweet time of honoring Pastor Steve and Samantha for the impact that they have had on the lives of everyone around them and of saying goodbye for now.  A lot of people had an opportunity to share the impact that Pastor Steve and Samantha had on them.  And yet for every one that shared I know that there were at least 4 or 5 more that could have shared. As much as Steve and Samantha loved those around them, those around them loved them.  What a legacy — to be known for your love!

I love you Samantha and you have made such an impact on my life and how I view God and the world.  I know that you are going with God’s blessing and that is the most important thing.  You and your family will always be in my heart and in my prayers.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Time Machine Moments

In my job as a case manager for children and adolescents with mental health issues, there are times when I need to go to Crisis Intervention with the kids and their families.  In our county Crisis Intervention is located inside the emergency room of the Good Samaritan Hospital.  This also happens to be the hospital emergency room that Scott was taken to when he had his fatal heart attack and where I first saw him after his death.  No matter how many times I go there with the families that I work with and walk past the trauma room where he died, it instantly has the power to take me back in time to the early morning he died and walking into that room and the shell-shocked feeling that overwhelmed me.  Today was one of those days.  

As I reflected on this in a conversation with my mom this afternoon, we talked about a little boy in our church with some serious medical disabilities who requires a suction machine to assist him in keeping his airways clear.  Our family is quite familiar with this machine and the sound as my brother required one regularly for the twelve years between his industrial accident and his death.  The sound of the suction machine switching on in church instantly brings thoughts of Jason to our minds.  It is bittersweet - a reminder he is no longer with us, but also a reminder of him.  Every time I hear the noise I am grateful that the family sees this as a normal sound and not something for which they need to take him out of the service to take care of.  It may seem disruptive to others, but it is a comforting sound to us.  I know that I will never hear this sound without thinking of Jason, just as I will never go into the emergency room at the Good Samaritan Hospital without thinking of Scott.

No matter where I am in my grief journey for my brother, Jason, or for Scott, there are always going to be time machine moments — things that instantly transport me back in time to a specific moment with Jason or Scott.  These are powerful moments — not always bad memories and not always good memories — simply moments that remind me of those that I love that are no longer here.  

Monday, August 1, 2016


As I sit and think back over this past weekend, one word comes to mind - bittersweet.  

I think I feel that way every time we make the 4 1/2 - 5 hour trip to get together with the extended Bradley/Nottingham family.  I started joining Scott way on this trips way back in 1997 when we first started dating.  Those trips together continued, often multiple times a year, for the next fifteen years, until Scott’s death.  Due to the busyness of life, we did miss a year here and there, but tried to get there at least once a year.  

Then Jaelyn and I continued making those trips in the four years since Scott’s death.  Each time is bittersweet.  I love seeing Scott’s family, who became my family when we married, but have been so special to us and loved on us so much in the years since Scott’s death.  

I see glimpses of Scott and his personality in his cousins and other family.  This is bitter, in that it highlights that he is no longer here  —  and sweet in that it reminds us of who he was.  I found myself smiling often, with tears in my eyes, at the sound of a similar laugh, the similar humor of one of his cousins, stories being told, and the thought of how much he would have enjoyed the little kids.  He is never forgotten.

If Scott had been at this get together, there would have been at least one thing, probably two things that he would have made sure happened.  There would have been at least one table of Five Hundred organized - maybe more, and at least one game of tennis - probably more.  He always loved the big family get togethers where he could see everyone at one time and he loved his family.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

"Our" girls

Friday evening I had the blessing of spending some time with two of "our" girls from Milton Hershey School.  For those that may not know, Scott and I were houseparents at Milton Hershey School for a little over four years.  We spent 1 1/2 of those years with elementary school girls and then moved with them to middle school for another three years.  There were six or seven girls that we had the entire four years (the first six months we moved from home to home covering for other houseparents on their days off).  We left Milton Hershey School when Jaelyn was 5 1/2 years old.  

There are a few girls that really hold a special spot in my heart and held a special spot in Scott’s heart as well.  Aaliyah and Keirstin (KeKe) are two of those girls.  The last time that I had the opportunity to see them - and KeKe’s sister, Angel (who also holds a special spot in our hearts) - was at Scott’s viewing.  I was very blessed and touched by the effort that they, their families, and their houseparents made to get them to Scott’s viewing, to be able to say their goodbyes.  So it was almost four years since I saw them last and with very little opportunity to talk at that time.  As you can imagine, there was a lot to catch up on.  

We spent about five hours catching up and reminiscing.  Aaliyah and KeKe were with us from the start of 4th grade when they first came to Milton Hershey School through almost the end of 7th grade, when we left MHS.  I am beyond proud of these girls!  They have huge goals for themselves and are well on their way to achieving those goals.  I remember thinking often throughout our time on Friday evening, “I wish I could tell Scott about this.”  I know without a shadow of a doubt that Scott would be so proud of them as well.  He would have enjoyed the conversation and their sense of humor.  They have each had their challenges in life, but they are positive, motivated, and hard working young ladies.  I am looking forward to keeping in contact and seeing how far these young ladies go in life!  Love you girls!

Aaliyah playing with Jaelyn in June 2008.

KeKe playing with Jaelyn in February 2009.