Lessons from the Grave (Part 4)

(On to Life Wisdom Lesson no. 15. Again my words will reflect the power of faith. As was last week, read on only if this isn’t offensive to you- as it is never my intention to offend, only to benefit and encourage.)


The day after we arrived in California we felt as though we’d been there for weeks! We went to the place Tommy had been living (John’s deceased mother’s home) and sat for a long time on the bed where he took his life. Needless to say that experience was surreal. It was also one we are eternally grateful for. We looked through his pictures, clothes, paperwork, etc. just to try to get a handle on where his mind and heart were. John knew his one obligation was now to do for his brother what he, himself could not do. John and I were to not only

Photo Credit, Kevin Walsh.

Photo Credit, Kevin Walsh.

set the tone for the family, but he was to take care of details and situations that Tommy felt were too insurmountable to overcome. He wanted to drive his brother’s car while we were out there so we picked that up (also surreal driving around in his car under the circumstances). This was the day we took the paperwork we found so we could get it to Tom’s attorney. That night we spent with many family members—who were all confused, angry and in a lot of pain. I called home with a plea to “call out the prayer warriors on this one” as I knew what we were going to face was not going to be easy. This was also the day we talked to the pastor that led Tommy to the Lord. John was nothing less than elated when he discovered that Tom’s soul was, in fact, in heaven. When faced with this kind of horrid reality (the violent suicide of a loved one) the only comfort one can hope for is eternity with God. The moment John found that was truth he was almost giddy! During our time with his family I noted how he was actually projecting happiness! All this put together made for an indescribably high and low emotional day. The next morning I talked to someone at home and found out my mom had been on her knees the entire evening for the situation we had faced the night before. My husband commented about how he was sure my mom has ‘golden knees’ because what had happened the day before had been nothing short of miraculous. The way John was able to not only portray peace to his cousins was second only to the way he shared his joy that Tommy had received Christ. Even when— especially when— things feel impossible, remember God specializes in the impossible!!! Prayer ALWAYS changes things!!!


I truly believe that in our heart of hearts, deep down in our belly, we all know what the right thing to do in any given situation is. When John and I discovered the details and, quite frankly, secrets that no one else had exposure to we had to make difficult decisions as to what the right thing to do was. There was an estranged spouse, now a grieving estranged spouse. There were family members and friends who wanted answers, yet who might be serious bias in how they wanted to see things handled. There were 3 young children to consider, who no longer had a father. There was the business of legality that had to be looked at. And then there were our own broken hearts to contend with. The reality of Tommy being gone and that it was his choice to be gone was something we carried with us 24/7. As we discovered all we discovered we had to take all the above into consideration so we were certain we were doing what was right. Our own pain couldn’t bias it. It couldn’t be skewed by someone else’s opinion or emotion. And it had to be right by all parties, even those being blamed for his death. When faced with a difficult decision keep this in mind. You know the right thing to do. Do it.


Same idea as above. Most of the time our instinct is what we should listen to. Only clouded if emotional reaction is making the decision, your gut is almost always right. I refer to this as an ‘unction’. This word indicated that the Holy Spirit will give you answers to the tough and even the simple choices in life. We all have it. The more we quiet our own desires, the more God lets us hear the desire he has for how to see and take care of something. Now think about that— God will give you the way to take care of a situation. WOW!! You can’t get a better solution-provider than that!!


We made the decision to play Motown (Tommy’s favorite) during the calling hours at the funeral home. With all that was going on someone dropped that ball and we were ½ way through the hours when we realized how somber, sober and sad the atmosphere was. People were whispering, barely talking actually, many were just sitting and staring… and lots of crying. It hit me! “What is this music??” The funeral home had supplied some sort of harp stuff. Not that I don’t like harp music, but it definitely sets a less-than-joyous tone in a place. John ran to Tom’s car and retrieved a CD. The very moment that CD went in, the mood in the place lifted. People began talking louder, even laughing. The music caused people to move from missing Tom and being angry to remembering him with love and celebrating his life. WOW! Maybe we should go into the funeral music business!


After 15 days of being surrounded by anger, depression, pain and confusion we truly felt like we were ‘living in peanut butter’. I came up with this term as we went through all our cancers. It basically means it seems like your life is moving in slow motion, like everything is happening at the slowest pace possible. This is how it was out there. BUT when we landed in Chicago John looked at me and said, “It’s like coming back into the light!” Life throws tough stuff at us, appreciate the good time, the times you do have positive words and attitudes, love and faith around you. Embrace those times. Not only will you come to appreciate them more, you will work diligently to see that they occur more and more often, so the dark time don’t take you over.


Do NOT try to deal with everything on your own. The moment John and I got back we set up a time to go see our counselor. This was the best thing we could have done!! He helped us to understand when the grieving might subside, and how that would look and feel. And he helped me see things I really needed to see. For the last 2 years of my life, well more like 3 I guess, I’ve been experiencing something that has resulted in me beginning to believe I’m not who I thought I was. I found out, I am very much still that person. Our counselor allowed me to see the truth. One piece of which was the next point.


Even in light of all that was occurring I was able to listen to the hearts of people and their words. We were able to make our main focus to bring peace and some sort of sense of order. Keep your head, don’t let emotion rule you, look at the facts and consider all parties involved. Even in chaos you’ll be able to think and make good decisions.


One of the things I felt angry about was how the world seems to always just assume I will take care of things. Someone it feels as though I’m not ‘allowed’ to have the same feelings others have. I told him I knew this was selfish, but OH WELL. As I was describing to our counselor all that had taken place in California he said, “Donna, it takes a true leader to handle this the way you did. Most people would fall apart. Because people see you take care of things in crisis they do count on you to do that, and because most would fall apart they simply can only relate to one that doesn’t as the leader.” OK, so I’m a leader. I’m ok with that… as long as I get to fall apart in private, with people who love me there’s balance and a healthy existence. And there in lies your leadership lesson. Step up to the plate when difficulty occurs; don’t fall apart until you can.

As promised, next week will conclude my series of articles. I pray reading them has opened your eyes to some life wisdom which will help make life easier and business better. Writing them for you has done this for me.

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