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Monday, March 31, 2008

Dancing with Grief Plus 2 weeks

Two weeks have passed since that Monday we waited in agony for the phone call that came half an hour before midnight.

It’s also the last day of the month that Jolene died. I will be glad to see it go.

Mom, a widow and the lone survivor of five siblings, said, “You’ll be sorry to see it come from now on.”

I hope not. My son and one granddaughter were born in March. But I doubt it will be easy.

That Monday morning, when we were only aware that Jolene was missing, I prayed the following: “Oh, Lord, You know my worries about Jolene. I thank You that You know where she is and that You are working out all things for her good. Break through the stone walls she has erected.”

She is not only in a good place, she is in the best place now. Those stone walls are smashed, replaced by the loving arms of our heavenly Father. But oh, that is not the way I wanted my prayer to be answered.

The words from Natalie Grant’s song, Held, one of Jolene’s favorites, continue to haunt me. To think that providence would/ Take a child from his mother while she prays/ Is appalling. Appalling. Perfect word for the sense of helplessness and hopelessness of a child dead in spite of all our love and prayers and faith.

But with Natalie, I also affirm And to know, that the promise was when everything fell, we'd be held.

God’s arms are strong enough.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Okay Tonight

I just got up from watching Cold Case on t.v.

"I'm not sure what I'll write about tonight," I told Mom. "Maybe that's a good thing."

It's been a good day, a day when we rested and revived in the Lord.

We had a blessed time of fellowship and worship at church this morning. So many people wanted to talk; we were among the last to leave. A pleasant dinner at our favorite after-church restaurant, a good nap, even some writing on my book that's due in May.

I must be doing better. Writing is my lifeblood, but all I've written recently has been related to Jolene's death. It felt good to work on my story.

My cousin called from Kentucky. My son's former creative writing teacher called; she expressed her sympathy, then we talked about our common passion. Tonight I started working on a notebook of cards and notes we've received. So many people have expressed their support in so many ways.

I'm still tired; I owe a large sleep debt from the past few weeks. And tomorrow I may feel lousy again.

But for now, I give thanks God for a good day.

Mom brought me the following hymn which I'll share with you. It's from Hymns of the Christian Life, the hymnbook of my childhood. William Cowper wrote the words.
Sometimes a light surprises the Christian while he sings;
It is the Lord who rises with healing in His wings.
When comforts are declining, He grants the soul again
A season of clear shining, to cheer it after rain.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Jolene's treasures

Last night, we (Mom and I) opened Jolene's box of treasures. It's a lilac-colored lead box, about 8" square, that used to work with a key. Now it pops open with a touch.

First layer: a bag of polished stones stating they were from the Holy Land, as well as other unbagged stones. Jolene LOVED to collect stones. Twigs, branches, leaves ... Jaran talked about her love of nature in what he wrote for her memorial service.

Second layer: a thin box holding pins from the 2002 Olympics. Jolene and I had taken part in a mission outreach in Salt Lake City. I remember her delight at finding these terrific pins for a great price. She also kept a turquoise bracelet, reminiscent of our trip to Santa Fe. Those two items let me know how much those trips meant to her.

Third layer: coins, dozens of them, from all over the world. She collected American coins from the year of her birth, 1984, as well as older coins (from the '30s and '40s). She had lots of coins from Canada and Mexico; but what astonished me were the coins she had found from around the world. She had coins with Chinese characters; coins from Bermuda, Chile, Panama; from Poland and Holland and Italy; from a country in the former Soviet Block which we could not identify.

Bottom layer: a picture of Jolene with her fingerprints on the reverse side, her own form of identification. Her Social Security card, Colorado i.d., and birth certificate.

The weekend before Jolene died, we ate together at IHOP. She found two plastic Easter Eggs filled with candy. She was SO pleased with herself. She always noticed unusual colors and shapes and objects on the ground; and she collected anything of interest.

Looking at her treasures brought home my loss in a new way. I have lost someone unique and special, someone who treasured God's earth and the people on it. I cried. I don't know if you can call it crying. It's more of a whimper, broken sobs from a broken heart, letting loose small pieces of the pain inside.

Thanks for those of you who have prayed for us over the past 24 hours. I slept 10 hours, the first good night's rest since we heard the news. Today. we considered renting a movie or going to the theater. In the end we did neither. We made two trips out; both exhausted us. I feel tired and sad and heavy, but not as distraught as I expected.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Ratrace Speed

I planned to do too much this morning.

On an ordinary day, with ordinary traffic, perhaps I could have managed it. I wanted to drop by the church to pick up a check, go to the funeral home to drop off a letter, and then go to an office supply store to get supplies for scrapbooks. All in an hour and a half. I should have known better.

Nothing has been ordinary since March 17th.

We had to skip the stop at the funeral home. By the time we waited all the way through the cycle of a long traffic light, then waited in a four-car line at MacDonalds for lunch, Mom & I were ready to scream.

I've got to remember. Everything takes longer than I expect it will. Everything takes more energy than it used to. Plan to do less.

It's the first weekend we'll be alone. I am frightened. We usually spent Saturday afternoon and evening with Jolene. Those hours loom in front of me, scaring me, daring me to fill them with something. Anything. Tomorrow night I'll have to tell you how it went.

Thursday, March 27, 2008


For the first time since Jolene’s death, I unfolded my prayer list to pray for someone else’s needs instead of focusing exclusively on me and mine.

And the first name I saw was—of course—Jolene.

I wanted to tear the paper into little shreds. My mother and another wise friend both counseled me to instead praise God for Jolene whenever I come to her name on the list.

At work I couldn’t stay awake. I struggled with drooping eyelids for 30 minutes or more; took a trip to the bathroom, splashed cold water on my face, and somehow revived. I made it to the end of my shortened day ready to work longer, to get more done. (I didn’t.) I felt, gulp, almost normal, for the space of about half an hour. A great blessing.

I also took the plunge and called the coroner’s office to learn if they had determined when Jolene had died. They could not give an exact date, but their best guess was either Thursday evening or Friday, two weeks ago. I’m glad it wasn’t Sunday, which would have been her birthday, or Saturday, when I knocked on her door. I hope it wasn’t Friday, which was my son’s birthday.

Praise, and peace, in slivers. God is good.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

One Moment at a Time

I met Jolene today.

I saw a young Latina girl wearing a T-shirt with a picture of the Little Mermaid when I stopped the mailbox this evening.

Have I mentioned that I engage children in conversation whenever possible?

So I asked the girl if her name was Ariel.

"No," she said shyly.

"Tell her your name," her mother urged.



I don't know if I've ever met another six year old named Jolene. But God knew I needed to meet another sweet child who bears the same name as my girl.

It's been a day I've survived a moment at a time.

We awoke early, made a 45 minute crosstown trip to apply for death benefits. It was hard, oh so hard. An in your face reminder of the reality of what happened. I drove straight home and climbed into bed. Awoke 30 minutes later, refreshed, ready for work.

At the office, two different managers took the time to talk with me and offer to help me in any way I needed. On the way home I met Jolene.

Once in my apartment, I opened a card that said how I'll miss seeing Jolene smile and hearing her laughter.

And started bawling. Oh, God, how can I bear never seeing my baby again?

One moment at a time, I'm making it through. God is good.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Return to Work

Today I went back to work. After half my normal hours, I felt like I had worked an entire shift. Tomorrow I'll ask my boss if I can work half-days for a couple of weeks. Six hours was too much.

But going to work was good for me. For periods of time, my mind was caught up in my work and the book I was listening to on tape. When I wanted to talk, I'd turn around, and chat with my seatmate about how my cat handled the stress of last week or about one person who is (repeatedly) expressing her sympathy in a way that makes me uncomfortable. My coworker understands, and when I turn around and go back to work, he doesn't feel offended.

In fact, my coworkers have bowled me over with their kindness. They sent a gigantic floral display and collected almost $175 additional as a gift. Six or seven of them left work to attend the memorial service on Friday, and today, everybody was ready with a hug, a quiet word of concern, an offer of help.

I left work at my usual hour. When I pulled into the parking lot, grief landed on my heart, increasing its weight a thousand percent. The full horror and pain of my loss jumped on and dug in claws.

At least our cat Talia (a lynx point Siamese) has returned to normal. She raced around the house and through a maze, glad that her two moms have spent a normal day without unexpected guests. Her sheer joy and relief gave me a reason to smile.

God has seen me through another first, going back to work. Another first. Tomorrow morning I go to file for death benefits.

By God's grace as shown through all of you, I know I will make it.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Dancing with Grief Plus 1 week

Sunday at church I met a dear little girl named Hannah Grace. She was born on a week earlier, on March 16th--my daughter Jolene's birthday.

A nice coincidence except for one thing.

Jolene committed suicide on one of the days immediately prior to her birthday. Sometime between Thursday night and Saturday.

Jolene Elizabeth Franklin would have been 24 years old on her birthday. Like Hannah, we had committed our child to the Lord from birth. And the "Jo" part of "Jolene," from "John," means "God is gracious."

So although Hannah Grace sounds nothing like Jolene Elizabeth, her name resonated with me.

Seven days ago at 9:30 PM, I sat petrified in my living room, waiting for the officer who had taken my missing persons report to call. He finally notified us at 11:30 at night.

Now we know. This side of heaven, I will never again hear my girl's laughter or have her rub my back. The memorial service is completed. Family has returned to Oklahoma. Today I spent a hard day chasing done legalities--bank accounts, death benefits, getting the key to her apartment so that we can clear it out. All those things took days to accomplish because we have no death certificate (we won't until the tox screen returns in 2 months), no will, no experience and no one to give us a users manual for grieving family members. I am exhausted beyond what I imagined possible.

But perhaps I will see Hannah Grace again next Sunday. And be reminded that God's grace continues, His faithfulness endures, and life goes on.

I know that many of you have lost children due to various reasons. Others have lost loved ones to suicide. And those who have not those particular pains have gone through your own vale of suffering. I want this blog where we can all share, lift each other up, and cry on each other's shoulders. Feel free to share.