Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Just let me love you....

In a little less than two months, Michaela, you will have been missing for 26 years. In all that time, if you are alive, I think it might have become harder and harder to even believe that there was a life before the one you live now. But there was. And this is what I am praying for, that God will bring these things to your mind, that he will tell you that I love you, and remind you that he loves you, that you will be freed. And if you are free, and you want to remain where you are, then all I ask is that you contact me, free me from this not-knowing and from all the dreadful imaginings that fill that not-knowing, and just let me love you, from near, from far ... just let me love you.

mom

Monday, September 29, 2014

The journey through grief

Yesterday at church I was introduced to a mother whose 26-year old son had been killed two months ago in an accident. I have felt such a burden to be able to help others who are suffering from grief and loss ... I have been reading widely on the subject, in an attempt to understand it in my head, so I might possibly find some words which would be helpful, which would be true. But faced with it, I realize that there are no such words. There is nothing on earth anybody can say or do that will relieve even a little bit of the grief of such devastating loss. How could I possible be helpful to those who have suffered such a loss?

There are things I can suggest that can help people deal with it, that can help them crawl out of the dark hole which will be forever in the center of their lives. But not everybody is ready to crawl out yet, and I really don't think they should be hurried if they aren't. My loss is different from those who have had a loved one die. My child was missing, and so I not only had hope that she might be coming home each and every day, I had things to DO to try and help make that happen. That busy-ness was a great help. But I think it also helped me to fall immediately into the distraction. And denial. I have always stepped around that hole, and I have paid for my inability to face its darkness.

Apart from grief, there is depression, which is quite a complicated monster. It does not always mean that you are going around being sad. Sometimes it masquerades as a flatness. Frequently it shows up as anger. Anger is one of the defined stages of grief, and also a major expression of depression. I learned this in the second year after Michaela was kidnapped. I just felt angry. I took it out mostly on other drivers on the road, who thankfully were in their own cars and couldn't hear me. At other times, I felt as though I wanted to smash glass. You know how it is when you are nauseous and you just want to throw up because you know it will make you feel better? That's how I felt about smashing glass. I did finally go out in my back yard one day and break some dishes. It felt good in the moment, but didn't really help in the long run. I used to run every morning, in the dark, and that helped. It was on one of my morning runs that the light finally came on and I realized that the anger was really sorrow, turned inside out and thrown outside myself so I wouldn't have to deal with it. It is a way of avoiding the black hole. It is better, probably, to spend your time there, so you don't end up going so far astray.

Depression is still something I deal with, almost 26 years later. These last couple of weeks I have been doing a discipleship program with my church, which includes cutting way back on media. As long as I was at it, I figured I really should get eating under control. As a result of these things I suddenly found myself engulfed by depression. I had been burying it for years in food ("let's eat our feelings," as my daughter jokes sometimes), and I had been distracting myself with a constant stream of media, television and other entertainment to occupy my mind. (You know, work occupies my mind also and distracts me from confronting my feelings and from my relationship with God as well. I don't know why they didn't tell me to give that up instead of television. ;) )

If you are in that black hole of grief and you do want to get out, though, I think you have to begin by allowing yourself to be happy. It is not dishonoring to those we lost to be happy. I struggled with this in the beginning. I was fortunate to have a lot of people around who made me laugh even in the worst of times. In this respect again I was in a different position than those whose loved one has passed on, to my detriment, because I kept envisioning Michaela alive, terrified, miserable, and how could I laugh when my child was suffering? But me being miserable didn't help Michaela. In fact, I have mentioned many times the letter I got from the man in Los Angeles who said, "Find something to smile about each day. That will help Michaela, because she wants you to be happy." I know this is true, and I know I had other children still to care for, and I had to maintain some modicum of sanity for their sake. I say some modicum because I am well aware that I didn't do that as well as they needed, and I will spend my life being sorry for the ways I let them down. I thank the Lord that they have turned out as well as they have in spite of me.

Those other kids. They kept me alive. Mine were little at the time, ages 8, 3,  and 8 months. One of the things that is common after a devastating loss is for your heart to pull back in on itself. You still love everyone you loved, but there is a bit of a distance, as your heart draws back and says no, I can't love like that, because I could not survive the grief of another loss like this. This is not a full-fledged thing, and it doesn't result in abandonment, although divorce is really common after the loss of a child, and this might play into that. But for the most part, it's just an undercurrent. For me, I didn't really know it was there. I only realized how guarded my heart was when I was pregnant with my youngest child, five years after Michaela was kidnapped, and I lived through the painful fall of the walls around my heart.

I'm not a real fan of therapy because I never found it did any good, but I had therapists who just let me blabber on without ever really guiding me into anything. I wish somebody had been able to tell me what was going on inside. I guess, though, that when you discover it yourself you really know it. The next question is whether knowing it changes it. I don't think it does. What is hurt needs healing, and that comes on a different level. Sometimes it occurs through life experiences, and I have had that happen on a number of occasions -- that synchronicity of events that lets you know that there is more to things than what you see, that there is a guiding force, and ultimate love in even the worst of times. The Bible is full of teachings on suffering and its purpose in our lives. And it does have a purpose. It changes us, and we are never the same people we were before.  It moves us, often, closer to who we are meant to be and what we are meant to accomplish. But these are things that need to be experienced. These are things that need to be felt. An explanation of these things to a grieving parent, spouse or child might perhaps evoke nothing more than anger, because the fact is that there is NOTHING that justifies the loss to our children of their lives. "My child died (or was kidnapped)," they will say, "so that I could accomplish things and help other people? Well phooey on that, and phooey on any God who would think that's okay."

Yes. I know. Believe me, I know. But sit with it. Allow time to pass. Allow it to penetrate your heart, your bones. One thing we who have lost children want to know is that our children's lives and suffering were not for nothing. They weren't. Just as you made them into who they were, they are making you into who you will be ... and not you alone. A child who is lost will touch and change many, many hearts ... a child of any age. They are a part of your essence, a part of the essence of all who loved them, and thereafter, like the ripples from a pebble in a stream, a part of the essence of every life you come to touch. They live in your heart, and you continue to shine their lights into the world. They affect eternal destinities. You don't need a blog or a facebook, a book or a TV show in order to do this (although you surely can!). The light may be a search light, a spot light, or a warm lamp in the windows, but it is a light.

I have seen a lot of deaths of young people lately. I don't know what that means. It compels even more me to want to understand, and yet I know that true intellectual understanding may well be beyond my grasp. If I were to tell you that ultimately having a relationship with God is the greatest and only comfort, I know there are those who will not believe me. To that I can only say, it doesn't hurt to try it. For me, when I have opened up to God just a little bit, he has responded ... not usually instantaneously, but he has started calling me, has planted little seeds in my heart until one day I see the sprouts and say, hey, what is this? There is nothing at all in this world that is certain. I have had to acknowledge that because I open myself up to love, I open myself up to the most atrocious pain some near or far day. There is only one who I love that I will never lose, and that is God.

But I know, sometimes, that doesn't feel like it's enough.

I wish I could reach out and touch those devastated by grief with some magical healing. But I can't. All I can say is, you are not alone. You will survive, because I did. It will always be there, but eventually it will be a scar rather than an open raging weeping sore. In the meantime, two things to remember:

(1) Find something to smile about each day.

(2) Hug someone. I personally feel my grief as a literal heart ache, like a soggy, heavy mass in the center of my chest, and the thing that makes it feel the best is the warmth of heart to heart contact with someone else. This morning I even sat for awhile holding my dog heart to heart, a little pound puppy who had certainly known his own sorrows, and it just felt so good, eased the pain in my heart, that I never wanted to let him go.

And,

(3) Trust God. God doesn't cause the bad things that happen. As my pastor said the other evening, everyone wants free will -- they don't want God messing in their business until something bad happens -- and then they want to know, "Where were you God? How could you let that happen?" We live in the world we live in, the world we have created, with evil and with laws of nature and physics that allow for illness and accidents to occur. God doesn't generally micromanage those things. But what he will do is use the bad things to refine you, to remake your life. "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28)

And one more time, this beautiful song: I'd have thought by now you would have reached down and wiped our tears away, but once again, I say amen, and it's still raining....

Saturday, September 6, 2014

The Prophecy**

A few years ago, when I was attending Faith Fellowship in San Leandro, Pastor David Silvey* called me out with a prophecy.** He said that I would get the answers that I seek, that he could see the police coming to my door,  could see me falling to the floor. Years have passed, Pastor David and I have each gone through our individual wilderness times, but managed to find each other again. The other evening I was attending a Bible study he teaches at Lift Ministries, and he mentioned this prophecy. It is the first time since it was given that either of us has brought it up. It was, I believe, the first service in the new building which is to be the new home for the church. He was teaching in front of the group assembled, and he said to me, "I haven't forgotten the prophecy I gave, and it will come to pass. I see the two men coming to your house. I see you falling to the floor."

I have thought about this prophecy often throughout the years. I have tried to place it here or there, or to imagine this or that. The falling to the floor part has always thrown me. I am NOT a demonstrative person. When I sat at a table in the police department facing two detectives and they informed me that a bone has been found that was thought to be a child's bone, which was thought to possibly be Michaela's bone, I felt a wave of grief wash over me. I felt my throat close with what threatened to become tears. But I held myself. My unconscious mind was not about to allow me to show my grief. I was quiet for a moment, swallowing it down before I trusted myself to speak. Allowing myself such a display of emotion as falling on the floor just doesn't sound like me.

And honestly, as time passes, it gets harder and harder to even purposely get down on the floor! The joints are cranky, and collapsing just doesn't come naturally to me anymore! It would take an awful lot to make me fall on the floor, and it's been difficult to imagine what that might be. But I realized the other night, as I was hearing Pastor David speak those words again, that what I had always imagined in considering this scenario is that what the police would tell me would not surprise me. Somehow, deep inside, I would have been expecting their words for more than 25 years. It would not be a shock. I envisioned myself saying, "Okay. Thank you." Then I would close the door and turn away from them.

This is because as much as everybody pats me on the back and encourages me to have hope, I have not really had a lot of that. I have thought about Michaela being found alive, I have created elaborate fantasies around it, but I haven't really believed it was possible. The hope that I have had, well, it has been a different kind of hope, more of an eternal kind of hope and trust in God to know what he is doing. But in spite of the long-missing girls who have been found, in spite of the leads that say that Michaela is in this country or that country, in spite of the fact that I still write letters to her, I have not really and truly believed it is likely that Michaela is still alive. But how could I? If I really, really allowed myself to believe that, I would be setting myself up for the most crushing pain and disappointment the world can hold. Believe me, I had enough of a taste of that in 2009 when Jaycee Dugard was found and I was so sure Michaela would be found with her. But worse, if I really, really, really believed Michaela was still alive, I would have to live with the likelihood of all the terrible things she would have been enduring all these years, and still enduring. Neither of these outcomes is easy to embrace.

What I realized the other night is that there is only one thing that would cause me to fall down, and that is if the police came to my house and told me they had found Michaela and she is alive. Yes, that would be what would bring me to my knees.

My prayers changed slightly that night. I just simply asked God to remind Michaela of himself wherever she might be. If she is in a place where she is having difficulty escaping for any reason, God would be the one who could find the way. "Remind her of yourself, Lord. Give her strength, set her free, and lead her back to me." Michaela was actually a strong believer before she was kidnapped. If she is still alive, who knows what might have happened to her faith. It's been a fiery trial for my faith, and I have been safe at home with my family. But one thing I do know, and that is that once you are God's, you are God's, and though you may wander for a year or half a lifetime, he will call you back to himself, and that would be true for Michaela as well.

That's all. That's my prayer. That's my hope. If you pray for Michaela, I'd appreciate it if you would join me in this prayer. It is the first, most essential step to freedom.

And Michaela, if you are out there, just call on God. He will hear you, and he will respond. He will pick you up and spin you in circles, dance with you and laugh with you. I know, because he did this with me. He will teach you, strengthen you, show you the way. If you are interested, you can read some of my spiritual journey on my other blog, at www.just-sharon.com. Just have faith, ask for help, and know that just as God is still here, still loving you, so am I.

Love you forever, forever my baby girl.
mom

*Pastor David Silvey teaches Thursday night Bible study at The Lift Ministries in Hayward at 22580 Grand Street, right off A Street. The building is green and currently not marked as a church because it was recently purchased and is in the process of being renovated. Also, Pastor David has his own blog, which can be found at http://davidsilvey.wordpress.com/

**It occurred to me as I was thinking about this blog that there may be people out there who are not familiar with the notion of prophecies, or who think it is something confined to Daniel, Isaiah, Revelation and the like. Actually, it is just one of the gifts that is given to Christians. Jesus told his followers that it was better for them if he left them, because while he was here he was with them, but after he died he would be in them, in the Holy Spirit.

It was never difficult for me to get this. When I began exploring Christianity, the first book I read in the Bible was the Book of Acts. This was in the 1970's, when the Charismatic movement was sweeping through the Catholic Church, and it was a priest who told me to start there. It was quite an eye opener, completely challenged my idea of what Christianity was all about. What I wanted to know was why I'd never heard any of this before.

If you are interested in knowing more about this, I suggest you read the book of Acts in the Bible. Everything in the Bible after the book of Acts teaches about the gifts of the spirit in one way or another, but for a quick reference, 1 Corinthians chapters 12 through 14 is a good place to start.

Monday, September 1, 2014

The home movie

Recently, Michaela, I received a copy of a home movie I had no idea existed. There hadn't been a lot in the way of movies, and the one I knew of had been destroyed when it was loaned to a television station. Receiving this, I was surprised, and delighted, and scared to death to watch it. It was your voice that came to me then. Your face is before me all the time. Everywhere I have photographs of you. But all I had to do was think of a movie and the sound of your voice came back to me, and I was both anxious and afraid to watch it. Robbie said he'd watch it with me, but I told him no, I needed to watch it by myself, at least the first time.

It was not the scary experience I thought it would be. In fact, I found myself smiling all through it. Not only were you in it, but Nana also, who died almost ten years ago, and Grandfather. The video was taken at Thanksgiving and Christmas the year before he died, and you could already see how sick he was. His voice shocked me actually. I don't know if that is the way it always sounded, or if it was an effect of the lung cancer and emphysema, but he sounded nothing like what I remembered.

The video made me really, really sad though. Libby was a baby at the time, and she was sitting there in her walker, and in the first video we adults were spending a ridiculous amount of time trying to get her to blow a raspberry. Meanwhile, there was my beautiful Michaela. You hovered in the background, and then you came and sat on my lap and I held you while still trying to make Libby blow a raspberry, and I was glad to see me holding you until suddenly I reached right over the top of you to do something to Libby. And I just felt so sad. I wanted to say to myself, "Stop! Get the camera off the baby who isn't doing anything at all, and interview that beautiful little girl who you will have for only a short time after this!

And I felt sad for you, Michaela. You know I never loved anybody more than I loved you, don't you? If it makes you feel any better, Libby had to go through the same thing. Even at the age of 20, Johnna, the baby of the family, is without a doubt spoiled, a fact that is acknowledged by all, including the spoiler and the spoiled. There are some extenuating circumstances, but nevertheless the other kids seem to take it all in stride, and I honestly don't get the impression that they feel any less loved than Johnna. And they are not.

There is only one child in the family that Libby ever voiced any jealousy of, Michaela, and that is you. One day when she was maybe seven years old, she asked me what I would do if she was kidnapped. I thought she might be scared, so I told her not to worry, that she is not going to get kidnapped, but she kept insisting on an answer. Finally I got it, and I asked her, "Libby, are you jealous of Michaela?" She answered that yes, she was. "You always talk about Michaela," she said, "and you cry about her." Honestly there was close to a year of my life that I kind of recall spending way more time than was healthy laying on the couch with my eyes squeezed shut, while Alex and Libby and Robbie played with each other. For many years I must confess I was good for little.

I seem to have had not enough awareness in life of the value of each of the moments entrusted to us, and not enough awareness of myself and what I was doing in those moments. Still I suffer from this, with entire days melting into weeks into months into years without accomplishing what is before me to accomplish. But the most important thing is the love in the moments. It really hurts to see me missing out on that chance to fully engage with you in that movie, Michaela, and not only because our time together was going to be so short. It is because it hurts to see that ever a moment passed in each other's presence when I did not make you feel my love by my ever word and action. I really don't think you doubted it, but even if so ... well, how I long now for the opportunity to old you in my arms and just say those words, "I love you, Michaela," to tell you how beautiful you are, how intelligent, how kind, how bright is the light that you shine out into the world.

Part of the movie is Christmas morning at Nana's, and you and Alex are opening presents. The film goes on and on, just recording everything. At one point my dad pipes up and tells your dad that he thinks this is going to end up being pretty boring for posterity, this movie that just goes on and on, and I want to tell him, "NO! This is something precious! In just a few months, you will be gone, and then Michaela, and then my mother. One day I will be sitting here watching this and it will be a gift beyond measure to see, to hear, to feel in my heart the presence of those I love and miss so much. Let the film go on, let it roll forever and ever. Let it not end with the opening of gifts, but let it record the playtime, the dinner, to the brushing of teeth and tucking into bed at night. Let it go on and on and record all the days of all our lives! Let it never, ever end."


But it did. It did end, far too soon.

I don't know if I will post it here on the blog. For one thing, I have to get some smart person to upload it onto the internet to do that, and for another, I don't know if I want to, because it does make me so sad. We will see. Meanwhile, last week was Libby's birthday, and she came down from Oregon and we all went to dinner. I figured I'd include a photo of me with Libby for you. For your next birthday, if it is possible, my wish is for a photo of me and you together, Michaela.

I love you forever baby girl. I will see you again.

mom


Sunday, July 20, 2014

Michaela, God still loves you....

Sometimes I realize things, and I am shocked at how really slow on the uptake I have been not to have realized those things before. I feel I need to apologize, Michaela, because I am not sure that in all these blogs I have ever told you this one thing: God still loves you. 

Before you were kidnapped, I had told you a lot of things. I had told you that I loved you and that I would always take care of you. I had told you that if ever you were sad or lonely and I wasn't there all you had to do was touch your heart, and you would find me there. I had told you that if ever you needed help that you should ask God, and that God would help you. The first of my promises, I was not able to keep, and I am so very sorry for that. I only hope that you won't decide nothing I said was true because of that, because the rest of it is. I am in your heart, as you are in mine. You might forget me, might forget what I look like, might forget my name, could even forget that I ever existed, but I am still in your heart and I am still loving you, wherever you are, anywhere in this world, or in the next. 
The third promise ... well, you would be in a better position than I am to say whether God helped you or not. He could have helped you in ways I couldn't possibly imagine. You could have a better relationship with him than I do, know him far more intimately. Should you ever come home, it could be that you will be the one to teach me. But one of the things that has always haunted me is a moment that might have come when you felt abandoned, by me, and by God, when you surrendered to whatever may have been your fate with the knowledge that help was not going to come, no one was going to save you. That is such a heart rending thought to me, that I have never carried it terribly far from there. Not until just this past week, anyway, when it suddenly occurred to me that you could be alive out there somewhere, and you could still feel abandoned, helpless and hopeless. If you are reading this blog, of course you know that I still love you, that I still long for you to come home. But I can't reach out my hand far enough to touch you, to help you, to take your hand and lead you away from wherever you are.

But God can. Wherever you are, you are not alone. This is what I know for an absolute fact. All you have to do is open your heart up just a little bit to God, and he will come in. He will call to you. He will sing to you. He will love you with a love that is so soft and gentle it feels as though it will blow away if you breathe on it. But it won't. Touch it and it will grow stronger, will fill you with joy and will make you want to dance. I know this. I guarantee it. It may happen over a period of time. Once I opened the door to God and then forgot I'd done it and walked away, but behind all the noise of my life he kept calling until I said, oh, huh, it's you, God. It may happen instantly or overnight, as has happened to me. I have walked away from God more times than I care to admit, but all it has taken is a word and he has picked me up and loved me like ... well, like a missing child who has been found. But once you are his, you are always his. And you, Michaela, are his, and if you are not in his presence now, all you have to do is call to him and he will be there for you. The picture above is one of my favorites. It is called Jesus Reached Down. But he is reaching underwater, to save someone who is drowning. When we run out of air, when we run out of hope, he will be there.

I have no idea what you have had to endure since the moment you were grabbed and stolen away. Nor can I tell you why things like that happen, how it could be that God could have allowed you to be kidnapped in the first place, or why he didn't answer my prayers, your prayers, the millions of prayers offered for you over the years, to bring you home safely. But I do believe as the Bible says, that "All things work together for those who love the Lord and are called according to his purposes." And this I believe, also, that you, Michaela, have a light. You were born with a light. Those who knew you could see it when you were here, and it shines just as brightly now, even though you yourself are hidden from us. You have been a gift to the world in your presence, and you have continued to be a gift to the world in your absence. So many hearts and lives you have touched, Michaela. If you were to come home, you would not ever have to worry about being ashamed about where you had been or what has happened to you. The world loves you, baby girl. I love you. God loves you. You have a very special destiny ... to touch the world in its heart, and create love.

I have been reading a book this week, called Unspoken by Dee Henderson. It is about a woman (Charlotte) who had been kidnapped for four years, between the ages of 16 and 20. And what Charlotte says is that she could never believe in a God who would have forgiven the men who had hurt her. That thought kind of startled me, not that she couldn't believe in God because of what had happened to her, but because God would have been willing to forgive and love the men who had hurt her. This is true, though. Many years ago I wrote about God's love for Nancy Garrido. I want to write now about God's love for whoever is responsible for Michaela's kidnapping. I have always know this, God's love for you, and God's sorrow for you, from the moment I first laid eyes on the composite. So I say to you, too ... God is there. He is real. Open the door of your heart just a crack and he will come in, and change your life and change your heart, whether you are the person who kidnapped her, or anyone else who was involved in any way with Michaela's kidnapping, or anything else for that matter. "Behold, I stand at the door and knock" is what Jesus said. All you have to do is open the door.

Michaela, of course I have to say again, if you are still alive please come home. You can do it. With God's help, you can do it. But most of all, what I want is for you to be at peace, for you to be happy.

Until we meet again, and we will, just know that I love you forever baby girl.

mom

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Michaela dream

I had a dream last night that the case was on the verge of being solved, that there were several very strong possibilities. And in the middle of it, three women came to my house. Two of them were islanders of some sort, and one was a blonde woman, and they said she was Michaela.  I wasn't sure whether to believe them or not. I said, well, you are beautiful enough to be Michaela. She was upset because I didn't believe her. I asked her why she thought she was Michaela, and she said because I remember, you are my mother. I looked at her closely and could see a faint trace of a "stork bite" birth mark she'd had as a baby (she no longer has that by the way), and I thought yes, this is Michaela. I held her for a moment, and we talked for a little while, and then she left.


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Too much pain....

When you have enough pain, you stop feeling. That in itself is a problem, however. It's like that disease, where you can't feel physical pain. You can be seriously ill or injured, and you won't even know until it's too late.