Wednesday, February 24, 2010

In Honor of Joshua's Uncle Eric

Today marks year two of Joshua's uncle Eric's death.

You may wonder why I chose to break away from my normal theme of writing about our loss of Joshua.

To begin with, Eric is the baby of our large family of eight siblings (we lost our baby sister, Maria, in a house fire before Eric's birth). He was so close in age to our first two children, that he grew up with them. Joshua heard the stories of Uncle Eric, and he knew of his loving kindness. Of Uncle Eric's pranks.

Joshua met Uncle Eric only a few times. We lived in different states, and Eric joined the Army at age twenty when Joshua was six. Josh was proud of Uncle Eric when he went off to Iran (as shown in photo on the left) and fought on the front lines in a tanker. Together, Joshua and I tied yellow ribbons around the Eucalyptus trees in our driveway. Together, we prayed for Uncle Eric to come home safe. Together we enjoyed Eric when he came a year later for a long visit.

As Joshua grew into a strong young teenager, he favored Uncle Eric in every way. In physical appearance (he had hands like Uncle Eric), but mostly in his mental outlook and mannerisms. Above all, they had the same soft spoken tone of voice. They both loved a good prank.

The night of Joshua's memorial service, Eric called me from Iraq where he was on his third tour of duty. Our siblings and their spouses and our dad were at my house. We couldn't talk long, because everyone needed to leave. I could hear the ache in my brother's voice as he told me he loved me, wished he could be there.

In November of 2007, Eric suffered a flashback from the wars and wrecked his car. Life for Eric slid down hill, resulting in his death on March 24, 2008 (photo on right taken weeks before his death). How he left us? He was in training sessions, having flown from Texas where he was stationed to Stockton, California. Eric's mind broke for the last time. He was marching as though in war and a truck hit him on a highway after midnight.

Twelve hours before he died, Eric had another car wreck during a flashback. The highway patrol sized up the situation perfectly (they noticed Eric wore the Army uniform and drove the Army vehicle) and suspected Eric's problem. In the hospital, doctors and nurses suspected, too, that he suffered from flashbacks. Eric was acting and talking irrational, but then he'd have lucid moments. After being held in the hospital for almost twelve hours, Eric escaped like a prisoner of war and met with death.

Later, the autopsy report showed no drugs in his system, except for his doctor prescribed anxiety medication.

Eric Neal Martinho is a fallen soldier, who had weeks before received his Bachelor of Arts degree. A hard worker, who loved his family and his friends. As they say, a regular stand up gentleman.

I pray today that my family and Eric's friends' suffering grows less. That we all remember our love and our memories of Uncle Eric: husband, father, sibling, and son.

Until next time . . . keep praying, for God stands with us even in the darkest hours.

Friday, February 19, 2010

A Bad, No Good, Horrible Day

I'll paraphrase what I read in a suicide survivor book. Where you are spiritually, is what you'll be equipped with after the suicide of a loved one.

"As thou knowest not what is the way of the spirit, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child: even so thou knowest not the works of God who maketh all." (Ecclesiastes 11:5)

My point is simple. When Josh died, I needed to know why. I needed to gain some of the control I lost the day our son left us.

Would Joshua be in heaven one day, even though he took his own life? One friend said, "It may be that you will never know."

An honest, but uncomfortable answer.

I wrestled with God, daily. I wanted answers. Now! These are normal human feelings and thoughts. And that's what makes them suspect. They are our human side. All this struggle business is part of the plowing through the middle of grief after a loss. This way, we come out the other side with proof God is Lord.

As human control freaks, we think it is our right to know all, see all, do all. Sorry, but no. That's why we have God. He cares for us as a parent attempts to care for their child. As is meant for a child toward their parent, it is number one importance to obey and trust as children of the Lord. That's faith in a nut shell.

But, it is NOT easy to perform daily faith when one's son has killed himself, and you were unable to stop it.

My best moments were what I wrote in the February 9Th post. This post is about my bad, horrible, no good days. You'd find me down, my nose pressed to the floor sobbing to the Lord, while my husband mowed the lawn. I most always came undone when my husband was at a safe distance. It frightened me to fall apart all alone.

The day after Joshua's memorial service, I began to eat. I weighed 107 pounds and by the end of three years, I weighed 162. I ate comfort foods: dairy, chocolate, and Mexican cuisine. Lots of that salsa. It's proven that hot peppers raise one's serotonin levels which bring us to a happier place.

Joshua was depleted of serotonin, and that's why I believe he was able to do what he did.

The good and the bad of overeating, is I didn't get so big that I was obese, but my doctor was beginning to worry. Now that I look back that food helped me stay alive, while I processed. The part I feel ashamed about is this: Why was Jesus not enough? Why didn't my faith in him keep me from gobbling down comfort foods?

I believe it was that wrestling thing, again. Like Jacob of the Bible, I could not stop wrestling with Lord God until he answered me. What I found though, were insights of a different kind. I'd "stumble" upon scriptures that gave solace to my soul. Scriptures that told me to sit tight and rest in his arms, while I ate.

I was so lonely for Joshua. That alone just about sent me over the edge. But you see, I had to come to a place of complete broken before God could reshape my soul. That took three and a half years. When I landed, spiritually safe, God allowed me to move forward. It reminded me of birth. As the child comes to us naked, I too, came the same way spiritually delivered to Lord God. Through it all, Christ Jesus increased my faith.

I made a choice at that moment of my redemption. We will not on this earth understand "the works of God who maketh all."

I must wake each day and choose who I will follow. Some days I choose myself and that's a bad, no good, horrible day.

Until next time . . .

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Broken Heart and Contrite Spirit

I love this scripture and recently came across it once again. "The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit." (Psalms 34:18)

From all the studies I've done on this word contrite I believe it means "humble" and humble is where we begin to cement ourselves on the path where the Lord can use us. But, as it shows in the first part of this verse we must have a broken heart. So you see we are broken, and then we allow the Lord to reshape us.

What I love best of this scripture is the "nigh" part. In my Archaic Words and the Authorized Version by Laurence M. Vance, it says this about "nigh":

"Nigh, which originally had the comparative form near and the superlative form next, literally signifies "that which reaches to" or that which suffices." The common meaning of nigh is simply near. This nigh denotes proximity in place, time, or position."

Golly, how beautiful is our Lord. He was with me the moment Joshua's spirit left his body. Lord, God never left me, even when I couldn't sense him. He is with me still. It's a promise right there in Psalms 34:18.

I remember being perplexed during those first months, for almost a year, after Joshua died. I did not sense God's presence. When I told one dear friend, she said, "God is sorrowing with you."

Could it be that my tears were so great, my grief so deep that my Lord was within my spirit, going through it with me? I know my relationship with the Lord had changed. I could not know him as I had.

I didn't lose my faith in Lord, God. No. I remember reading an e-mail from a woman who had lost her son over a year after we had lost Joshua. She said when she went to church, a thing she at one time enjoyed, it left her cold.

Oh, golly, I shivered when she told me this. I had NEVER not even once felt this way. I couldn't seem to get enough of the sermons. I often cried during them, but I went anyway. Yes, sometimes I didn't feel like going, because I would wake crying and couldn't stop. I willed myself to pull my emotions together long enough to get through the worship service. And it worked. I went home and sometimes resumed my tears, but I was very glad I worshiped with the people.

I believe God is reshaping my soul. Our relationship has changed, thank goodness. I am learning what it means to be humble. Humble toward God, my family, my enemies.

I'm not saying I am full of humility. Oh, no. I am learning to be humble and to respect our God. Because the only relationship we can have with Lord, God is of a spiritual nature. We must be grounded spiritually, even if only a thread is there, or left, to meet with him daily.

It's odd when I think of it. I am on the one hand still horrified that I am traveling this road of "the valley of the shadows." On the other side of this thought, though, is I have such joy and peace that only comes from Christ. Honest. Some days it's my only joy. This must be what it's like to have one foot in the spirit world and one foot on earth.

Until next time . . . embrace the trials and sorrows of loss and plow through the middle. We can't hide from God. Seek only Christ and not another. And when you've sought him fully, God will send comfort in the form of human words and warm hugs.