Happiness Can Be Found Even In the Darkest of Times…

happiness can be found even in the darkest of times

11 months ago at 12:25 am, I was asleep in my bed. Jason was probably either up watching Netflix, playing on Xbox live, or was out patrolling the streets. All was right with C’s sense of safety. Our universe was in order, our cards seem to be dealt right, and it felt like God was leading us down a path of the happiest years of our marriage and lives. Jason had the job he wanted, we had a supportive group of friends and family, and C loved his school. The hardest decisions we were making at the time pertained to either buying or building a future home, and whether or not we wanted to begin to try again to have another little one. At the time, those decisions seemed overwhelming, and I wasn’t sure if we were making the right ones.

 

11 months ago, my world had the illusion of perfection. If God could throw glitter and gold down upon our lives, it seemed as if it couldn’t be more possible than where we were 11 months ago. From the moment Jason decided to apply for the job in Texas, to the moment we crossed over the state line and officially became “Texans,” every door was thrown open, and God seemed to be saying, “Come on my child, follow me. I’ll lead you where you need to be. Trust me.” And, so we did. We trusted. We trusted enough to leave every bit of our biological family, friends who we had known since we were in diapers together, jobs we had become emotionally and financially vested in, and we threw our hands in the air and trusted… Little did I know at the time, what our future held almost exactly one year to the day from when we “trusted,” and officially became Texans.

 

11 months ago, when my world was rocked at its innermost core. When a piece of my validation, my sense of safety, the daddy of my precious baby, my best friend, my comical relief, and my counter-weight left the world, I was angry because I had “trusted.” I fought back bitter thoughts that flooded my mind; I repressed sour tasting words that seeped into my mouth and escaped as an almost silent whisper in the dead of the night- when no one was there to hear them but me and the one whom I trusted. I’ve yet to share those darkest of times, not because I am ashamed of them- we are human. We are flawed by our nature. We are cursed because of the sins of our forefathers, to strive to reach perfection, but to never quite achieve it. I’m not ashamed of my doubt and anger at the fact that I trusted God’s plan. It’s just sometimes we don’t realize how important a moment is, until another moment comes along and connects the two. I didn’t realize how important those early morning hours spent lying in bed, crying, and silently whispering my deeply rooted anger at how I felt betrayed, confused, and lost because we had taken a leap of faith, and trusted. I couldn’t realize how important those darkest moments were because I had turned off the light. I had created the darkness.

 

In those darkest moments, I was blaming God for the lack of light, when in reality, my hand was on the switch all the time. I was so blinded by my anger and sense of betrayal, that for a small amount of time, I was struggling to believe the light switch even existed any more. Thoughts of “how could you rob my baby of growing up with his daddy,” “ why of all people did we have to suffer this much,” and, “how could you lead us down such a ‘path of perfection,’ to allow it to end in death, heartache, and destruction?” My words lashed out at a God I felt misguided me. While my tongue acted as a whip in an attempt to rationalize the reality before me, my hands were searching. Searching for the light switch…the moment where my doubt would leave me, and an answer to “why,” would appear.

 

As I searched, certain events, dare I say milestones, occurred. Many firsts without Jason, hours of phone conversations with dear friends, the reality of a dream coming true, The Pink Behind The Thin Blue Line forming, the trial, memorials, and so many more events happened around me, and all the while, I’m still searching for the switch.   My human mind was looking for a switch that would instantly flood my dark world with light once more. Yet, that instantaneous flooding of light isn’t really possible after a traumatic loss. One naturally expects because the light was taken away so quickly, that the same mirrored effect must happen for it to return. It wasn’t until recently, that I truly realized the impossibility of such a request. I wanted a flood light to appear out of nowhere. Ball park stadium lights to flood my life once more…but I wasn’t praying for the right “light switch.” A quick fix wasn’t in my future. Instead, God installed a dimming switch.

 

Each event, each “milestone,” each conversation, moved the dimming switch a tad bit lighter. The change in lighting wasn’t easily recognizable, and some days, it never changed at all. Yet, gradually, the light became a little brighter.

 

Tonight, almost 11 months after my light was turned out, I stand on the brink of attending National Police Week. A week dedicated to honoring our fallen. A week that ensures a “hero remembered never dies.” The sheer thought of attending such an awe-inspiring and honor-filled event leaves me feeling humbled. I fully understand the true cost of our sacrifice – I live it every minute of the day. Yet, still even 11 months afterwards, the honor that is so freely and willingly demonstrated for our fallen brings tears to my eyes. And while for some National Police Week may see to another reminder of their officer’s death. I sit here now, knowing my attendance at NPW is another way to honor my husband and all of the other brave officers who willingly sacrificed their lives for the greater good. I am able to have this perspective, because I am the one in control of my own light switch. God’s light has been shining all along. I created my own darkness.

 

Looking back on the past two weeks in my life, I can now measure the increase in light. In many aspects, the healing is harder, the pain more raw, and the moments of longing are more intense: yet, for some reason, even though the fog has lifted, and the reality of my new life has hit, there is more light than ever before. The memorials are never easy. They are vivid reminders of the true cost of an officer’s sacrifice. Yet, at the same time, they serve a dual reminder that Jason IS a member of a family who stands together no matter what. And, who demands that others respect them as well. I would give all the honor and respect back, to see C play with his daddy once more. The reality is…there shouldn’t have to be a week dedicated to our fallen. Even though it’s honorable, and their death heroic, it’s always unnecessary, and could have somehow been prevented.

 

Yet, this week I will stand with thousands of other families who understand the true cost of sacrifice. They too hold their switch to their own light source: and each one at a different stage of grief. I will stand next to thousands as they call out the names of the more than 100 officers who gave their lives last year. Tears will stream down my face as evidence of the sheer heartache Jason’s death has caused our family.   And as those tears are streaming down my face, my heart will simultaneously feel grief but honor.

 

My light is getting brighter because the honor of Jason’s death is finally sinking in. Yes, it was unnecessary, and could have been prevented. But, I know without a shadow of a doubt that I married a man WILLING to sacrifice his life for the greater good. I know I married a man who put the safety and well-being of others above his own, and he did so right up until his death. I know that he isn’t alone in heaven. He and those 100 plus officers will be standing at the gates of heaven, and they will be smiling down at people who still remembers heroes. While the week will bring its share of sadness, it will also bring with it the reminder that even though we lost Jason, we are still winners. We chose the path of sacrifice, and because of that, there is honor in his death.

 

thin blue line wreath

 

11 months after, I sit with a new found peace and comfort in the fact that while all of us wish there was no need for a fallen officers’ memorial, I am blessed to have such a close support group of men and women who understand me and stand beside me. I sit today feeling blessed even though tears will freely flow as reality sets in when I see his name forever etched in stone. But, I will be held up by a nationwide blue family who will forever carry Jason’s memory, and will ensure his sacrifice is never in vain.

 

Today, almost 11 months after Jason’s death, my dimming switch is far from at it’s peak capacity. It’s far sometimes even from flood lamp brightness, but my appreciation for and faith in my dimming switch, is the best it has ever been.

 

I firmly believe that God knew the end result of our move when we trusted Him. I know that He was preparing our family for a greater purpose much larger than ourselves. I also believe that He knew I would doubt Him, and lash out in anger, but that He planned to wait patiently. To gradually introduce me to people, and to place events and moments in my life that would slowly lead my hand towards the dimming switch. And each time my hand moved the switch up, my faith increased and my confidence did as well.

 

Tonight, as I finished packing for National Police Week, I was calm and at peace with attending. While Jason’s death was the darkest part of my life, I can’t continue to live there. It can only get brighter from here, and the only person who has control over that is me. The beauty of my hand being on the dimming switch, is that I’m in control of how dark I allow it to become. And, I have full faith that my hand is being guided and directed by my flood light. And if for some reason my world becomes dark again, I have such a wonderful group of blood and blue family who will be right there beside me until I can see the light again.

I am in charge of my light and my darkness, and while Jason was taken from us at a time I feel was “too soon,” I know with full faith God sees the greater plan. “Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light…”

 

Humanity exists in the paradoxes

When teaching AP language each year, my students always seem to struggle with truly grasping the definition of a paradox. And, to be completely honest, I generally quote them the definition, two ideas that seem contradicting at first but when further examined make sense. I give them an example, for instance, beautiful mistakes. We discuss, and we move on. And, even though I’m a die hard analysis nerd, I really never gave the idea of a paradox much thought.

That is until one of the three am conversations I so frequently have with friends. Quite often in my blogs, I refer to my paradoxical emotions. My battles between what my intellect says and what my heart feels. My existence in the gray areas of life, and my desire for more black and white. The desire for my feelings to make sense, be justified, at least in my own mind. But then, other times, I take pleasure in the gray, the emotions that seem contradictory but actually make sense. To feel anger which leads me to want to forgive. To grieve but instantaneously feel joy at a forgotten memory. To be blinded by the bad in the world, which leads to the amplification of the good. To want to forget the bad memories, but to need to remember them because they are a measurement of how far I’ve come. Constant tug and pull. Never traveling in a straight line, but zigzaging my way through a maze; backtracking down paths that I thought I’d conquered, only to relive then again. Feeling an emotion, and then immediately its opposite. Which one is real? Which is fake? How do you distinguish?

I struggle with my inability to distinguish because it, at least in my mind, is labeled as failure. Again, intellectually it’s silly, emotionally, it’s real. Surprise-paradox number five thousand and three, all within the last four and a half months. The back and forth, up and down, crying, happy, livid, forgiving – it’s exhausting. Often times it’s debilitating.

But as exhausting and debilitating it often times is, it’s how I know I’m making progress. Thankfully, few people in my life truly understand how I feel. And as alone as that often times makes me feel, it makes me happy too. I’d never wish this upon anyone.

Humanity, progress, reflection, exist in paradoxes. Recently I watched a movie, and it began with this quote:

“In the moment when I truly understand my enemy, understand him well enough to defeat him, then in that very moment I also love him.”

You can imagine why this paradox bothered me so much. And, I began to reflect on the most difficult paradoxical emotion I’ve encountered. One I’ve failed to conquer, but frequently revisit. Losing J in such a violent way, shook my belief in humanity. Actually, it erased it for a short period of time. It actually made me seriously consider giving up teaching all together. What could I possibly do to change humanity, if hundreds of people drove off that night to save themselves -not my husband? I created a lot of enemies in my mind during the days I spent despising most humans. And, I thought of countless ways I could inflict as much pain on my enemies, as they did on me. I’d be lying if I said I never thought about the pleasure I might feel if they could just feel an ounce of the pain I feel daily. I wanted, needed to, had to find a way to defeat them.

But, I couldn’t. They didn’t give me any means by which to defeat them. In order to defeat someone, you have to be in their head, understand them, predict their moves. And, even at my worst, I just couldn’t bring myself to go there. So at least I thought…

Despite what I wanted to feel, I felt remorse for even thinking of vindication. And, over the past months I’ve tried to come to terms with never receiving an apology, and at the same time not wanting one as well. Sometimes I want to think humanity has lost all hope because it’s easier than accepting an apology I’ll never get. It’s easier than forcing myself to become a better person. But in that lies the ultimate paradox of it all…. I am defeating the enemy because I get the motive. I understand why I haven’t received an apology. Reflecting and becoming a better person isn’t for the faint at heart. It’s why so many people remain stagnant. And, I feel in some ways for the enemy, even at the same time I’m experiencing anger. I feel for the stagnant… And while this pull and tug drives me insane, it motivates me as well. It’s what keeps me walking the line J walked daily. It’s what keeps me from only thinking about sticking my toes into the black, but never crossing over. It’s what makes me empathetic….an emotion that requires humility and reflection.

I know you all probably think I’m insane for admitting to feeling for the enemy, especially when my last post didn’t reflect that at all. I debated on sharing this feeling at all because I thought you’d think I was crazy. But, my paradoxes are what make me human, and they are what cause me to grow. They are what keep me from vindication because they are my vindication. They are what encourage me to continue to teach because they are how I’ll make a difference in the world. More young people need to be taught to embrace the paradoxes in our lives, and to use them to come out on the good side.

Paradoxes are a representation of the good and the bad-how each are reliant upon one another for existence. How could we praise our Savior if we didn’t have a firm grasp of the evils He is saving us from? Not saying one must intentionally experience sin in order to appreciate His glory. But, when we do slip up, it makes us all the more glad that He understands and is merciful. He is why I can even begin to entertain the idea of understanding my enemy’s motives…

So, while my paradoxical emotions drive me insane, they are also my reminder of the person God is preparing me to become. And my reminder of the importance of recognizing them so that I can continue to walk the line with my head held high. They are what allow me to bless others in the midst of my storm….

And while I am far from able to forgive, our even truly understand, I’ll just embrace my paradoxes. I’ll ride out the conflicting emotions, and I’ll pray that each time I gain strength and more mercy and grace, so that I’ll slowly become the person He has destined for me to be.

Maybe you disagree with my feelings. Maybe you think I should be angry, our that in some way I’m betraying J by attempting to understand my enemy, or attempting to start the process of forgiveness. If so, please know you are entitled to your opinions, but you don’t live my life. I can’t continue to be angry; it eats away my being, and it causes me to never grow as a person. Being angry at him requires me to take off my teaching hat, and agree there’s bad in the world and there is nothing I can do about it. In my opinion in doing so I would not only be betraying the cause for which my husband sacrificed his life, but I would be betraying the person God created me to be. You can’t truly be a teacher and agree to give into the bad in the world. Those two can’t exist with in the same person. So, despite being robbed of the love of my life, an amazing daddy to my child, and so much more, I’m choosing to at least entertain the idea of forgiveness. Forgiveness is about me-my emotional well-being, not his. Forgiveness doesn’t justify his actions; it just allows me to be freed of SOME of the burdens he’s placed upon me. So, while you may disagree, please don’t think I’m in any way betraying J, instead, I’m attempting to be a better person, so that I can raise our child to be the man his daddy was, and so that I can become the woman who can continue to bring honor to my husband’s sacrifice, my family’s, and the families of so many others who have paid the ultimate sacrifice.