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Life vs Death -- according to Jaelyn

Last week Jaelyn came home from school with a postcard From Creative Communication stating:  Congratulations Jaelyn!  Your poem “Life vs Death” has been accepted to be published in the book A Celebration of Poets. 
The postcard stated that her poem is in the final competition and may be a Top Ten Winner.  They needed us to give permission for the poem to be published and to order a copy of the book if we wanted.  Jaelyn told me that her Reading teacher had entered her poem in a contest through Creative Communication. 
I am so proud of not only her ability to express herself in writing, but taking the risk to write something that shared a deep part of herself.  The part that struck me the most was not that her poem was selected to be published and in the final competition.  Rather, after asking a few questions, I found out that only the style of the poem was given by the teacher for that particular assignment and she chose the topic herself.  
Life vs Death
Life Energy, giving Everlasting, l…

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 norma…

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 ha…

Jaelyn - Celebrating 12 years!

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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 …

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…

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 wit…

Bittersweet

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 foun…