Finding Strength in the Darkness #HAWMC Day 6


Day 6th’s Prompt: Your Hero: Everyone has someone they look up to – a person they go to for advice, an individual you admire or idolize. It could be your partner, a family member, coworker, or someone famous. Who are they and what makes them awesome in your eyes?

I would have to say that I actually do not have a “hero.” There are characteristics and things that I admire about certain people in my life, but not anyone whom I aspire to be like or idolize. For example, I think that my niece, Jen, is an incredible mother. I find myself just sitting back and watching her interact with her children and observe the dynamic of her family and I am amazed, proud, and envious of everything she has become and the life that her and her husband have built for themselves. A few moments with their children and you would totally understand what I mean. Their life seems like a fairytale; a very BUSY fairytale 😉 . If I was a mother, she would be the standard that I would aspire to attain.

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{The Saturday before Easter Sunday, April 4, 2015}

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{Winter 2014?}

{They are absolutely perfection! They are the SUNSHINE on the darkest of days, for so many people in our family!}

For me, the people I admire and truly aspire to be like are people I have never and may never meet. People who find strength, even in the darkness. People, who can maintain hope, through a storm. People, who face impossible odds and are able to keep going with dignity and strength; never complaining about the cards they’ve been dealt. People, who inspire, give hope, and lift up others, not for recognition, but because they have beautiful souls. People, who exude happiness, even though they are without the necessities of life, like: shelter, food, and water. People who fight injustice, and are brave enough to keep fighting for what is right, no matter what it costs them. People who stand up for other people.

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I am talking about ordinary people, who are focused on making our world a better place. This includes health activists, human rights activists, civil rights activists, animal rights activists, environmental activists and lastly those who fight for equality for all people, despite their race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. People who work to help children succeed, grow, to keep them safe; people who give them forever homes and people who fight for children to have the appropriate supports in place to help them overcome adversity, in whatever form it comes in. People who invest their time and money into making sure everyone has the same opportunities to live with dignity and a positive quality of life. As you can tell, I am extremely passionate about fighting social injustice. I think that those of you who are fighting these battles are heroes. Whether you are a citizen from a small town, a celebrity, or a person with influence, you are who I aspire to be; a voice for the voiceless.

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I can only speak of what I read or hear on the news, along with issues in my own country. Every time I read an article or turn on the news, there is another injustice plastered across the screen. The majority of the people in my country turn the channel. If it doesn’t affect them, they don’t care or they make ignorant, hurtful statements, because they do not have the ability to imagine the struggles of others and they do not take the time to educate themselves before they speak or post something offensive on a social media platform. I have found this to be true of my family members and “friends.” Why are there so little people who are outraged and heartbroken over what their fellow citizens, global and here at home are going through? Where is the compassion; the empathy?

Specific public figures that I find inspirational are:

Maya Angelou, Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Senator Elizabeth Warren, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr., President John F. Kennedy, Ted Kennedy,  and Congressional Representative John Lewis. These are just a few of the people, whose work, I have immense respect for.

People, who work in the following professions:

Social Workers, Mental Health Professionals, Early Intervention and Head Start Teachers, Good Teachers, Nurses, and other Professionals in Service Jobs. See my “Be the Change You Want to See in the World” page, for a list of wonderful non-profit organizations {which is not a comprehensive list}.

In my own life, I would say that my mother is someone who I admire. She has experienced a great deal of tragedy in her life, in various areas. I am just going to focus on one specific area; losing the people she loved the most. We all go through hard times, but my mother has had to face gut retching pain, that I am not sure I would have mentally survived. We all experience the loss of loved ones. And although painful, if they have lived a long life, we are usually able to deal and reconcile with the loss more easily. There was a span of 10 or more years, where my parents lost parents, siblings, grandparents, Aunts and Uncles, all unexpectedly, and some tragically. Every year or so, there was another death in the family, sometimes before they even had the chance to fully mourn the last loss they suffered. (I do not know very much about every loss, since I wasn’t born until 1982, just that they were immediate family members, who were loved deeply and taken too soon.).

In 1979, 10 days after his 17 birthday, my brother Michael was murdered. It was his senior year of high school. He had gone to a football game that day, came home and told my father he was going to be staying the night with friends. The next day, my parents came home from church to find a state police officer waiting for them at the bottom of the driveway. They said that Michael was dead. The details of the murder are gruesome, so I will not discuss his injuries. The details that I do know about are only from the newspaper clippings that my sister saved in her journal, for I was not yet born when this occurred. As I read her words, describing the events and observations of my parents’ grief and how everything unfolded, I am relieved that I was not there to witness the pain. The pictures in the newspaper, of him lying in the street and the description of his injuries are painful enough, I can’t imagine living through it, or watching my parents and siblings suffer, as well. My parents never discussed my brother’s death. It was always a mystery to me. It was just a topic that I always knew was off-limits. It was only recently that my brother told me what he remembered of that time. He was just about to turn 15, in a couple of months, when it happened. I believe he is still in a great deal of pain over the whole ordeal. He once told me, “I keep looking for my older brother.” Listening to him speak on the subject broke my heart and made me emotional (I do not typically feel sympathy for by brother). The only thing my mother had ever said to me, on the subject, was that she woke up at 2 a.m. and felt sick in her stomach, like something was terribly wrong. She looked outside and saw that Michael’s car was back in the driveway, but he wasn’t in his room. Two a.m. was the approximate time of death given by the coroner. I always found that very eerie. I guess mothers have a sixth sense when it comes to their children. The case is still listed as a cold case. There was never closure or justice for my family/Michael.

{The next year my father’s mother died. In 1983, my mother’s father died. In 1984 my father had a massive heart attack, but he did survive.}

Easter Sunday of 1985 was on April 7th that year. The day started with our family heading off to church. The day was spent finding Easter baskets and spending time with family, I’m sure (I was only 3). I imagine that the day was filled with a lot of happiness and laughter.

2015-04-08 03.01.15{Easter Sunday, April 7, 1985}

My sister Allyson had flown in from Columbus, Ohio Friday night to spend the holiday with the family. She was 16 weeks pregnant and eager to tell everyone that she was going to have a little girl. They were planning to name her Jessica. My sister’s husband had to work Monday morning, so they left Sunday evening. It was still light outside when they left.

2015-04-08 03.01.51{Easter Sunday, April 7, 1985}

I don’t quite understand how your brain decides which images to hold on to and which ones to file into your subconscious… I can still remember sitting in the back seat of the car, all bundled up, watching her fly away. That is the only memory I have of my sister. It was the last time I saw her. On their way home, they flew into a snow squall. Unable to see, due to the weather conditions, my sister’s husband flew the plane straight into the ground. Authorities found a check at the scene, that my grandmother had given to my sister, to buy the nursery for her first great-grandchild. Easter evening ended with a state police officer at my parents’ door, once again, to tell them that there had been an accident and there were no survivors. My sister was 25 years old.

In less than 6 years my parents had lost two children, both in tragic circumstances. They always say, a parent should never have to bury their child. My parents did it twice. I cannot imagine the pain. I suffer from severe depression, have wanted my life to end, and although I have experienced a lot of emotional and physical pain, I do not think that it is comparable to the type of pain my parents have been subjected to repeatedly. Just a few months after my sister was killed, tragedy struck again, when my mother’s sister and husband were killed in a horrible car accident.

So why do I admire my mother so much, because she endured 10-15 years of tragically losing those closest to her, specifically two of her children, and it didn’t change her. Maybe I’m naive. I wasn’t alive (My mother was 41 and my father was 43 when I was born. I came 17 years behind my brother [still living]. There were four of us in all.) for most of the trauma that she endured and what I was alive for happened when I was just three years old, so maybe she did change… But the mother who raised me was happy, silly and playful. She never lost her faith in the Lord. She was an incredible mother and grandmother. I never saw her cry, though I am sure she did; and I never really saw her angry or lose her temper. She was present. She was a positive role model for what a wife and mother should be and I can’t imagine a more supportive and diligent mother to have been blessed with. I have seen changes from the effects of tragedy from other members in my family, but not from my mother. She always found the good in everything and everyone. Growing up it used to infuriate me, because I am much more cynically natured. She kept going, every day. She never complained, or felt sorry for herself. She didn’t turn inward or isolate herself or give in to negative coping mechanisms. I wish I had just a quarter of her strength, faith and grace.

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We do not have a family history of dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease in our family. Sometimes I think maybe God gave her a gift. She no longer remembers when it is their birthdays (my siblings), or the anniversary of their deaths. She doesn’t think about what the holidays would be like if they, and presumably their families, were here celebrating us, or just what life would be like in general had they not died. I know that in the past, there wasn’t a day that went by that she didn’t think of them. I don’t know, but I imagine that has stopped as well. My hope is that the same will happen when my father passes, but somehow, I don’t think he will be someone she will forget.

242{April 18, 2015–Married 56 & 1/2 years–Together 58 &1/2 years}

Even with this disease, she gets up each day and does her best to maintain the same 1950s household duties that she was taught to do, as a wife and mother. And although she does have bad days, she is still silly, playful, optimistic, and maintains her unwavering faith in the Lord. She is my inspiration and my reason to keep going, even on the days that I am determined to quit. I must be here for her. She kept going for me!

20150419_005858{1983?}

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6 thoughts on “Finding Strength in the Darkness #HAWMC Day 6

  1. Oh Lauren…..

    I sit here this morning reading what you wrote and I am in tears….I weep for you in what you are dealing with……and I weep for what your parents have endured in their lifetime…

    Such losses could had driven them into the ground, yet they are survivors.

    I sense it is your Mother’s deep faith in God and her sweet personality which she was gifted with that helped her face each day…

    And you, you were and are her greatest joy…and I can say this for when I look at the picture of you and her when you were just a baby…I see such delightful joy all over her beautiful face 🙂 and you dear Lauren were such a beautiful baby!!!

    And now you are a beautiful young woman…who is gifted beyond words! You are such an incredible writer!

    And you are an incredible, insightful, compassionate, loving, giving, precious and amazing girl.

    You and I have much in common, our physical illnesses, I too struggle with depression, caring for our elderly parents and a desire to help those who suffer in the darkness.

    My precious Mom passed away May 2014. She has lived with me most of my adult life, as my father died from cancer when he was only 59 years old.

    It was not easy at times caring for her, all the hundreds of doctor visits ( so it seemed 🙂 and chemo treatments and then it was painful for me to see her age and lose her independent. Yet I would do it all over again….

    So know dear sweet Lauren, caring for your parents , as you so compassionately do, is a gift you have. It is your calling in life for this season and you do it so well.

    I would love to get together with you sometime and just catch up and talk.

    Meanwhile, keep writing!!! You are amazing! And thank you for sharing and being so transparent.

    God blessings to you and with much love, Trudy

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I too am in tears reading this. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve chosen your parents as my heroes or credited them with who I am or qualities I have, especially my faith and my example of marriage. Their pain is unimaginable to me. I do believe their faith and your life brought them through it. There’s so much I don’t understand about your circumstances and the whys but I do believe you’ll be rewarded in some way someday. I love the last line of your post ❤️ And I love you!

    Liked by 1 person

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