When Depression Partners With Grief

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If you’ve read this blog for any length of time at all, you’ll recognize that I’m generally encouraging, or at least positive and pretty upbeat. I apologize in advance, because this is not going to be that. The words that follow will be fairly unfiltered and mostly unedited.

I’m tired, y’all. (Yes, I said y’all! I was born and raised in the south, so it’s allowed!) So jokes aside, I’m just exhausted in pretty much every sense of the word.

Before I go any further, I should warn you that what you’re going to read isn’t comfortable, and may frighten you as you question how I’m doing. That isn’t my intent. And, know this – I am safe, just need a space to process all this. I normally wouldn’t so openly, but ours is a world in pain. If just one person feels less alone, then there is purpose in the sharing.

I’ll get right down to it. I’m feeling overwhelmed and like I said, exhausted. I feel like I am just barely managing to keep the tears at bay some moments. No, I’m not a walking waterfall of tears, but I’m finding that they have a mind of their own. They want out more than I try to prevent them.

This whole grief thing – it sucks. Yes, the sun does still shine from behind the darkest clouds, and there is tremendous beauty all around us – even when depression makes everything bleak and dreary. Even though I know depression lies, it’s hard to hold onto that when is talons claw deeper.

My parents watched as we said goodbye this side of Heaven to my 7 year old daughter. I watched my parents bury my brother a year later. Days before my daughters death (she knew she was dying) she remarked how this just isn’t natural. And she was right. It isn’t. Parents shouldn’t watch their kids die. It sucks.

Depression, especially when partnered with grief, is a dangerous thing. It robs you of the ability to see or feel the beauty everywhere. It encourages statements like, “I just can’t do this anymore,” or simply, “I’m done.” I feel that way often.

But, here’s the thing. So far, I’ve managed to hold onto the idea that depression lies, and grief won’t always be painfully intense. The problem I struggle with is this. It’s hope. For me, hope seems about as easy to hold onto as wet soap in the shower.

I don’t like living like this. I genuinely wonder how it’ll be possible to keep going another day, let alone decades. Yes, I have sporadic suicidal thoughts. More than I care to admit. They’re painful and annoying, but no – I don’t entertain them either. They come, and I let them go. I try my best not to dwell in those moments. I choose not to act on them.

Let me reiterate – I really am okay. Well, a better description would be safe. I’m not particularly okay right now, but I am safe. Like I said, I won’t take unsafe action when those bad thoughts invade.

I guess I just need to hear the same words I share with hurting people all over the globe. It truly is okay to not be okay. It won’t always be this intensely painful always. Hope is real, and it always will be. I am a living, breathing story – one with chapters still being written. My story matters. I matter. I need to hold onto these things, rather than the lies depression partnered with grief tell me.

If you need to hear these things, or you know sometime who does, please tell them. You may be the lifeline they need in whatever crisis moments they’re walking through. If you hear nothing else I’ve said, please hear this. You are not now, and not ever, alone. I know the storms will still rage, and can be damaging – but one thing is for sure. You aren’t on your own, and neither am I. Take my hand if you need a friend…and please also offer yours. As I wrote last week, there is power in an outstretched hand; healing happens in friendship.

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Pain And Healing – The Value Of An Outstretched Hand

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Pain And Healing – The Value Of An Outstretched Hand

Every human being alive knows the definition of pain. For some, it’s chronic illness – physical, or mental. Life has a habit of launching some curve balls aimed at destroying the status quo. Our action, inaction, or reaction to reality altering events is what sets the tone of our journeys and lives.

When the pain is unbearable, it is easy to lose sight of hope – hope for anything other than pain. In the intensity of a crisis or painful episode, the shaded sunglasses are fastened tightly. Through them, we only see darkness. The brightest sunny day, with birds chirping and life happening can appear dark and dreary as we wear these glasses. It’s being sight impaired to beauty for fear of the pain.

That is what pain does. It blocks our vision. It keeps us from enjoying the okay or good times because there is a paranoid expectancy of the demons and darkness lurking around the corner.

On the converse, those moments where we’re feeling those unexpectedly beautiful moments, and we are able to take joy in them — it’s more crushing when the pain returns. There is no denying that good and beautiful things happened. There are sometimes undeniable miracles at work. Even with those, it’s hard to hang onto what feels like fleeting beauty. Sunglasses continue to darken the world around us. 

We all have pasts. The collective pain and brokenness that each individual brings into a crowded room is unfathomable. Hidden scars. Brokenness. Some have walked through addiction, sexual abuse or rape, traumas of all kinds, physical or mental illnesses, bullying, crisis moments, losses of small and great magnitudes – just pain that is unimaginable.

We all need to recognize the FACT that every single person in there is a living, breathing story. Each comes with their own story – what brought them to where they are today.

Let’s talk about healing. And taking off those sunglasses. 

Healing is a term that people throw around when things hurt. Physical or mental. When life hurts, I can almost guarantee that you will hear that time heals all wounds. Whoever tells you that is lying. They may not intentionally be liars, but time doesn’t heal everything that hurts. Some things, time does allow you to better get a grip of, or to carry a little easier…but take away the pain? Nope, not so much.

However, there are  things in life that help heal. 

When life hurts, love heals. It doesn’t make the wounds automatically go away, but it dulls the sharpness of the pain. When someone offers an outstretched hand, and doesn’t greet pain with silence, healing can happen in unimaginable ways. Hope that we were temporarily blind to – that hope holds your hand and sits with you in the pain. That place is where healing happens.

It’s important to note that it’s okay to not be okay. But, when you’re not, please reach out – and allow someone else the honor of your taking their outstretched hand. No, reaching out doesn’t erase the pain. It won’t, and it can’t. Even when you feel that you’re walking through hell on earth, it’s heartwarming to know that you don’t have to do it alone.

A little side note. A personal aside, if you will. Saturday night, leading into Sunday morning, I was feeling down. More than down. My heart was heavy, and I was not in a great place, mostly mentally. The pain well, it just hurt. I made the conscious decision to do something I didn’t want to. I went to church. I normally do want to attend, but, right then, I wanted nothing of it. I hadn’t slept well, and I would have rather stayed in bed. However, I chose to go. Not only that, but I chose to be honest with people when they asked how I was doing. Their response to my pain was what ushered in a healing, though not immediate, that was undeniable. They didn’t run from my pain, but instead they gave my heart a voice. The were intentional with their time, and they listened. They didn’t part ways with the cliche answer that told me they’d pray for me. No. They asked if they could go to God on my behalf – right then and there. They offered prayer, and an outstretched hand of friendship. They offered practical things, and shared ideas. In other words, they were a friend.

Following that, I was still just feeling unwell. I connected with friends via social media. We all know social media can be damning, but it can also be a network of support as well. Today, I connected with friends. My friends encouraged me to connect with others and they offered that hand of friendship that, even virtually, was a healing force. After some brief chats, I took a nap. I had to. After getting some much needed rest, I took the time to think on all this. Life, and also this day specifically. The power of love became very real to me. The power of connecting, and allowing others in.

Even not being alone doesn’t mean the storms aren’t damaging.

It is what we choose to do in these moments that define us. For me, it’s accepting the gift of friendship. When there is an outstretched hand, it’s taking it and allowing myself to just be. To just feel. To cry the tears that I want to suppress. A friend recently reminded me that I needed to feel what I was feeling, and that it was okay. Even the brokenness and tears. That is a reminder I have shared with many people over the course of time – but, hearing the words said to me – did something in my heart.

No, healing doesn’t mean the damage never existed. It means the damage is no longer permitted to control our lives.

I know it’s sometimes easier said than done. I’ve walked through hell on earth. I’ve known deep pain. But, I’ve also come to know hope and healing.

If you are or were a kid who was picked on and bullied, know that you don’t have to be defined by that. Healing is possible, and you are more. Your life is valuable, and you matter more than the words of any written language could express. There are many who may feel their pain is a result of their own doing. If you feel like you’ve messed up, always remember that you are not a sum of your past mistakes. You can make choices that enact positive change. You don’t hold all the keys to the universe, but you do hold some to your own world. We can’t control everything, but we can control our own actions.

Yes, bad things happen. Yes, it sucks. But, no, it doesn’t have to define your entire life. Brokenness can be exchanged for healing. It may not happen immediately, but it can happen. Sometimes love and friendship is like a healing salve applied to intensely painful wounds to aid in the healing process.

In case no one has told you this, please hear me. I believe in you. I believe in your story. I believe in the power of a shared story. So, let me offer this. If you have a story to tell, or just want to talk – reach out. I’m here, and others are as well. You can post in comments or send me a message via my “contact me” page. Just never give up on your story. Yours is a beautiful story, with chapters yet to be written. Never, ever give up. 

A Grateful Nation Remembers

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Take a look around you. What do you see? In neighborhoods, and on lawns across these beautiful United States, you might see grills fired up, parties happening, and celebrations going strong. This is a day off work, a day to celebrate, a day for BBQs and fun. But, it is a day for so much more.

This day is a day we link arms, and we remember. We remember the fallen – the brave heroes who paid the ultimate sacrifice to allow for the freedoms you and I take for granted each and every day. On this Memorial Day, let’s continue the beauty and celebrations of this day – but, let’s also honor and remember those who gave their all.

Having served our Country on active duty in the military, I walked through hell on earth at times. However, I got to come home. My heart is heavy, on this day especially, as I remember (I could never forget) my friends who did not come home. Some of my friends died as a result of military conflict, and some at their own hand. Either way, they never came home. Suicide isn’t the ultimate sacrifice that includes bravery in the way that we celebrate, but these beautiful people, my friends, never came home. They weren’t a direct result of war, but they were an indirect result of the affects of war.

This article isn’t about suicide, but I would be amiss if I didn’t mention it in the scope of people who have died in the service of our country. The intense darkness that people in the military face at times – it can seem unbearable. The mental health system in the military and all across the world, is so very broken. I know. I was in the military, and I faced unspeakable things. Thankfully, I got help, and I came home when the time came and I was able. For some, this isn’t their reality.

To all my brothers and sisters in arms – to those who still fight today, and to those who did make it home, I say thank you. To those who took their final breaths in support of our Country, and also to those who saw no end to the pain you endured and took your own life – you are, and never will be forgotten. I love you.

As you celebrate this day, I encourage you to also remember. Remember the fallen. Remember the heroes. Remember those whose lives were painful in a way they couldn’t escape and took their own lives. Let’s remember them all.

If you’d like to talk about this or anything, please feel free to comment below, or send me a message via my “contact me” page.

Suicide-Hotline

Side note. If you are a veteran or service member who has lost someone you love, and you are hurting – please know you are not alone. You are not ever alone. I feel your pain, and I see your hurting. Know this. There is help. There is hope. And, rescue is possible. I urge you to seek help. I hope you will reach out and connect with others. There are people, myself included, who love you. You can feel free to post in comments below, or connect via my “contact me” page. I am here. Others are available as well.
If you are in immediate danger to yourself or another, please dial 911. It is NEVER too late. You can anonymously call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-873-8255. If your voice is shaky and you would rather text, you can send a text to the @crisistextline 747-747 and you will be connected with a person who cares about you. Where you are. How you got there, and want to help you see that hope is still real. Love is still the most powerful force on the planet. You can find a host of local resources from @TWLOHA.

#RememberTheLove

 

Out Of Nashville Comes Beauty That Is Colorblind: Introducing Neely

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                                   http://neelymusic.com

The streets of Nashville are paved with the blood, sweat and tears of many a musician – and frankly, many who fancy themselves as such. Also walking the streets where musicians dream is a duo made up of two incredibly beautiful human beings, a husband and wife team: Jeremy and Kaci Neely, collectively known as Neely. There are not enough words in written language to explain these two and their approach to music, and sharing it with the world – but, that won’t stop me from trying.

The music industry as a whole likes people to fit into a cookie cutter mold of a single musical genre. Neely, however, defies this with their approach to music and the people who they know are listening. They do not fit into a neat little packaged box. Nor do their beats and lyrics fit neatly into one single musical genre.

There may be a country twang, or a bluesy feel – maybe a touch of rock. No matter what beat or sound their music entertains you with, you can be sure of one thing; they connect deeply with the human condition. They are unafraid of pain, or of emotion. Their transparency in music comes from life. They have a past, and it’s not all a bed of roses. They don’t hide the parts of their past that they may not be proud of. As storytellers, they allow their lives, the good and not so great, to tell of the journey that brought them to where they are today. Theirs is a story of grace and redemption – full of hope, and backed by love.

I had the honor and opportunity to have a conversation and ask a few questions – an informal interview of sorts. I have seen the love that fuels the duo play out time and time again on social much media, but in talking to them – their words matched their online persona.

In speaking with Jeremy, I watched his love for people, all people, play out. I asked if the duo has a target audience, and any age range they seem to cater more to. His answer did not surprise me, though it was precious. He thought for a moment and said that their music’s goal is, as previously mentioned, to be in touch with the human condition. People everywhere. All people. From the young to the old – all are important in their eyes. People have all experienced life in different ways, but many common threads exist.

What Neely does is play an epic game of connect the dots.

They connect with any living breathing person with ears to hear. They are able to connect those dots and meet people where they are – whatever walks of life they come from, and with whatever they bring to the virtual table.

The passion in his voice was undeniable when I asked Jeremy if there was any one message Neely would like to share with anyone reading this. With many examples of life, pain and even brokenness – They want people to know that they are not alone in their struggles – that they are truly loved, where they are, and who they are.

They have a heart for God, and also for people. Neely strongly values family, and community – and have coined the hashtag #NEELYFam on social media. They strive to create a community that is close, and forms bonds like family. I learned all this without having heard word one of their lyrics or music. Their hearts, and their mission- those things shine through like a bright beacon in a dark and dreary land. I knew they were musicians, but, I hadn’t actually known their music also. Fast forward. I listened, and it grabbed my heart in an undeniable way.

This is the effect their music has. On people of all ages. I have had the honor of watching several live reactions to Neely’s remastered for radio edit of their song – actually releasing today, Colorblind. People reacted differently hearing Colorblind for the first time. In those reactions were smiles and also tears; people found hope, and people made choices to be intentional with seeing people and life from outside the status quo – stepping outside comfort zones to impact their world. 

I had the opportunity for a sneak peak at this remastered version of the song, and immediately felt compelled to share it with you, my friends and readers – and the entire world at large. This song is pertinent to our world, and especially the state of our Nation.

“…Everything changes. Everything changes when we see inside. Everything changes when we become colorblind.”

That, if I could sum up the entirety of this song – it would be those lines. However, this song encompasses more of the human condition – and shows how pain and brokenness can collide with love – and the hope, unity, compassion and community form as a result of us just seeing things from an different vantage point, when we become colorblind.

Please do your heart a favor and listen to this song today. If you feel led, and I pray you do, please consider supporting them and downloading it from one of these sources: ITunesApple MusicAmazonGoogle, and Spotify. Neely isn’t represented by a producer, or any major labels. Instead, they are supported by their fans, and in a huge way, by their local church. Any download of this song would allow their mission to continue, and allow YOU to link arms with them, and the people desperately needing their mission and music worldwide.

Jeremy mentioned the love and incredible support of his church community and family, and the multinational congregation they have. He explains that there are more than 17 different countries represented, all under the same roof. In the same way, he says on any given day, he watches as people join together simply as people – business people, politicians, musicians, people with jobs of varying degrees, people with expensive homes, and people with no homes. The homeless person locking arms with people of incredible influence within their community and beyond. People being people. Doing life together. Love. That is God’s heart, and also the heartbeat of Neely. 

No matter who you are, and no matter your status in life – or what brings you to where you are today, please allow me to echo something I have said before (and will likely say again) – and as I mentioned, the heart of Neely: you are not alone! You are loved, right where you are – who you are. For YOU. Please know that the world is brighter with you in it, and your life matters. Take time to listen to some music. Take time to take care of YOU. You are valued. If you are in a place right now where you need help, know that it’s okay to not be okay. Reach out. Allow others the honor of reaching back.

If any of these thoughts, or any of Neely songs resonate with you today, it would be an honor to hear from you. You can feel free to post in the comment section below, or for more personal replies, you can reach out through my “contact me” page. I will also gladly pass along anything you’d like shared with Neely, other readers or just the general public. Anonymity, if needed, is offered. It is an honor to do life alongside you.

When Pain And Love Collide – How Music Is A Healing Balm For Shattered Hearts

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If you know me at all, you know that I like my music. Music always has been, and remains a safe place. I have had life giving and life changing experiences related to music, and at concerts where I have the opportunity to feel and experience the music live. One week ago provided another chance to experience this breath of fresh air, and to be in a safe place. But, it was so much more than that. It was life. It was love. It was God in action.

Leading up to that Sunday, I won’t lie – mentally, I simply hadn’t been in a wonderful place. This season of life just hasn’t been easy to navigate. Pain and loss, brokenness and a shattered heart seemed to forge whatever path I was walking. It was nearly impossible to see anything other than pain. And, then this concert happened. Dan Arnold and DCA Events brought some incredible talent under one roof. Such great music – but more than music, was a really great message and experience. But, I am getting ahead of myself.

I was over the moon excited on Friday when a friend messaged me to ask if I needed tickets since she had purchased tickets, and would be working. The tickets were available if I needed them. I did. That was a direct answer to my hope and prayer. I love music, and I wanted to be there.  But, had not been able to purchase tickets. So, God made a way where there had been no way.
With my daughter in Heaven, and now my brother also with her – my heart has been shattered. It hurts, and feels irreparably broken.  Enter the power of music.

 


First up was our church’s worship leader, and my friend, Chris Habermehl. The one whose last name has many different pronunciations – go ahead, try and sound it out in your head. It really isn’t that hard. I digress. This mans heart for Jesus, and for people speaks so many volumes. Chris has a burning passion and desire to lead people intothe presence and heart of God through Christ centered worship. He believes that while music is definitely a form of praise, the true heart of worship is a lifestyle expressed through love and compassion. He did exactly that, as he shared with the audience beautiful words from his album, Galaxies. His down to earth attitude and the way he connects with people through song is unbelievable. It is truly a blessing to know this Chris and his entire beautiful family. They’ve stood by my side through some of life’s most heart wrenching moments. Love and compassion definitely lead the way and shows others what Jesus looks like.

 

Taking the stage after Chris was Tyrus Morgan. The words of his songs back up his incredibly beautiful heart. From his about me page, he’s quoted saying, “There are earthy, tangible things through the body of Christ that show us something greater than ourselves, something to believe in.” An encouraging word. A quiet compliment. A pat on the back. Tyrus Morgan believes these small gestures are important ripples in an ocean of eternal impact. He believes that we were created to not simply go through the motions, but to do life together. He also had his beautiful daughter with him. I had the opportunity to chat with her a few times during the evening. It did this mama’s heart good to connect with an incredibly beautiful little girl with a heart of gold like her daddy has. I’ll remain forever grateful for the entire evening, but especially the tender moments I got to just connect with her.

 

We Are Messengers followed Tyrus, and was the final group to take the stage. Their portion of the evening went quickly from a concert to a worship service, to an outreach, and so much more. Having never been to one of their concerts before, I couldn’t tell you if they were all that way, or not. It seemed as if, several times during their set, they veered offer script a bit. They took time to connect with people directly, and share the heart of God in such a real, tangible way. They reminded everyone with ears to hear, that it’s okay to hurt and to have pain – but, reminded us to go back to a place of God’s love. Pain blinds us from finding or even believing hope even exists. Ask me how I know. Wait. No, don’t.   On their biography page, their lead singer, Darren Mulligan shares, “We can’t fix people, but what we can do is holds people’s hands and stay with them in their pain and doubt.” He is also quoted, saying, “We want to tell people about the goodness of God. Music allows us to have that conversation. We want to live people the way He loves us.” They clearly take this mission seriously. Their mission to love people right where they are, and to connect them with the heart of God was lived out in every second they were on stage, and off.

After the concert concluded, I had the opportunity to connect with each of the bands, and talk with some of them individually as well. These people became the hands and feet of Jesus, in human form. I was asked about my tattoos, and had the opportunity to share a bit of my story, my daughters journey, and even shared about my brother. The pain. The brokenness. The overwhelming nature of it all.

What allowed God to grab ahold of my heart was that they didn’t greet my pain with silence. They did sit with me in the pain. They allowed me to cry, and even had tears of their own. It was mentioned that is okay to hurt, and to not always be okay. I was given a hug, and they prayed right then and there. This is God in human form.

From the moment I walked in, to the drive home (that’s another story for another day) and every musical beat along the way – my heart felt something it’s recently been hard to latch onto: hope. I’m not saying I’ve got it all figured out. I don’t have the answers, and maybe that’s okay. What I am saying is this. I’m profoundly grateful to a God that cares enough to orchestrate music, and undeniable moments of faith and love to instill hope like a healing balm for my broken heart.

How Love Leads The Way When Shit Hits The Fan

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How would our world look different if love led the way??

Love. It’s almost like a four letter word. Oh wait…

In a perfect world, love would be the first thought, the forefront of everything we say or do.  When life is painful – when life isn’t fair, I just wish love led the way.

The bigger picture, in the great big world we live in…

In a world where love led the way, small children wouldn’t have to hide from daddy because he might hurt them again today. In that same world, the terrified wife wouldn’t have to cover up her bruises or hide in the shadows because of domestic violence. Husbands wouldn’t have to feel less of a man because he is the victim of domestic abuse. Men wouldn’t feel the need to “man up” and “grow a pair” because of their pain and brokenness. The sexual predator wouldn’t set out to destroy lives. Rape wouldn’t control destinies. When husbands and wives are more of a partnership than a dictatorship, love is allowed to lead the way. If love led the way, broken marriages and families would be a thing of the past.

In the perfect world, there would be much less pain, and much more love.

In that aforementioned perfect world, suicide also wouldn’t be a thing that tears apart lives, hearts, families and generations.  Love would lead the way. People would be loved, and love others. People would know others, and be unafraid of being known. People could live and love, hurt and cry – and just be in the world where love led the way. When people hurt, and saw no way out of their pain, love would surround them, and messy grace would hold them up. People would sit with them when their pain is blinding.

In my little corner of the world, I wish these same things on a smaller scale, I guess. When life hurts like hell, and all I see is pain, I wish love led the way more often. What does that look like, exactly? It can vary from day to day – from moment to moment.

Just one example. When my daughter died, if love truly led the way, people would be less afraid of doing or saying the wrong thing (and thus doing nothing) and would still be standing and walking with me. The people who drew close, and who were welcomed close like family, wouldn’t cease contact almost within days or weeks of her death. They would still be there. I need them differently now, but I still desperately need them.

When love leads the way, little threads of hope and strength are found – giving way to glances at peace unlike any other. When people come alongside others in their time(s) of need, grief, or sometimes insurmountable pain – this is how love leads the way. With love leading the way, people wouldn’t shy away from pain, and wouldn’t greet pain with awkward silence.

Let’s stop treating love like it’s an evil four letter word. Let’s be love. Let’s strive to let others see the meaning of love by looking at our lives. There’s enough hate and pain in the world. Let’s meet that with love. Can we let love spread like wildfire? Let’s let love lead the way!

Traversing A Tornado – When Life Seems Like A Whirlwind

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This past week, I cannot count the number of times I heard that it just felt like we were being caught up in a whirlwind. I can relate. 

You see, my big brother died last week. There are still more questions than there are answers. The pain associated with his death seems unbearable some moments.

 

When I look at this picture, and one I’ll share in a few moments, I’m a mixture of emotions. I smile, and I cry. You see, he was just 40 years old. He’s supposed to still be here. My big brother. 

I wrote, and had the honor of reading a eulogy at his funeral. It was not without tears, but it was also not without giggles. Fitting for the dichotomy that walks alongside losing someone you love. The following words are my hearts voice: 

Steven was a lot of things to a lot of people. To me, he was my big brother. He is a son, a grandchild, a nephew, husband, daddy, an uncle, and a friend. He was my friend. 

If you knew him, you’d know he wasn’t any cookie cutter mold of what society thinks of as normal. But, that’s what made him, well, him. He could be out there at times, but he was passionate. He had such a tremendous heart. He loved his family deeply, and he valued himself as a protector. He would do just about anything for those he loved. 

I know that many of us feel like this is a nightmare, one we wish we could simply wake up from. It feels so surreal, and it’s hard to even believe at this point. 

In his honor and memory, I would like to ask and challenge each person here to live life on purpose. Be intentional with your time. Love people like tomorrow isn’t promised. Tell them you love them. Make sure you know what they mean to you. Treat people with compassion and kindness, and make sure people know their value. 

None of us know how much we mean to others. But when I looked around the room last night at the visitation, and I look around the room right now, I see love. I see people who my big brother touched in some way, shape or form. He had a tremendous impact on this earth, and his absence this side of Heaven leaves a giant Steven shaped hole in a lot of hearts. Nothing can or ever will take his place. And it shouldn’t. 

One of the last things I want to leave you with is a reminder. It’s okay to not always be okay. It’s okay to hurt, and to mourn a loss of someone pretty incredible. Just don’t stay in that place forever. Connect with other people, and connect with hope. Celebrate that he lived, don’t only mourn that he died. 

Please, do not ever forget my big brother. Let’s always strive to remember all the good, or even downright amusing moments that bring joy and make us smile or laugh. Those same moments may also bring tears at times, and that’s okay. 

Heaven welcomed an incredible person, and I’m proud to be his little sis. I know we’ll all miss him greatly, but we’ll be okay somehow, because we have each other, and none of us will carry his loss alone. Thank you.

I meant every word. Though miles apart, we knew love. He often joked that I was his little big sister, because he was able to come to me with “some really big shit” and he knew I would be honest, and I would help him in any way I could. He also knew he could trust me to tell him the truth, even if he didn’t really want to hear it. 

That’s what love is. Love does. It’s an action word. My brother walked through hell on earth, but he wasn’t alone as he traversed his tornados. Even literal tornados – just ask me about his treehouse one day. 

Just as he wasn’t alone, none of us traverse life’s most difficult whirlwinds alone. 

I won’t lie though; right now, life feels really heavy. It hurts. I think of Heaven, and I long for the reunion(s) that will one day happen there. But, reality then sets in, the here and now reminds me that life isn’t always fair, fun, or even good – and sometimes I’m just sad, really sad. And, I know that’s okay too. 

I will echo something I’ve said a lot of times. I firmly believe we were created as community people. To know others, and to be known. To love, and to be loved. The key here is: not alone. I’ve been reminded a great deal very recently – it’s okay to not always be okay. 

Grief needs to happen, and what grief looks like is very individual. If you’re sad, know that it’s okay. If you’re hurting, know that the pain won’t always feel as intense as it does in these moments. I’m there. I get it. These words are as much for me as the next person reading this. 

With that all in mind, let me share an open invitation: please walk with me. Don’t greet my pain with silence. Give my heart a voice, even if that voice may be a little shaky. I need you. 

And let me offer that same hand of friendship – If you need someone who won’t ever give up on you, and who will simply sit with you in your pain- allow me that honor.