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“Do not judge me by my success, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.” – Nelson Mandela

“If life knocks you down nine times you get up ten”, Edgar would always tell me. The greatest compliment I’ve ever received was “there’s no quit in him”. Despite failures (and there have been many!) I’ve kept pressing forward. Thank you to all those who stand up again. You’ve shown me what persistence means.

Photo by Johanser Martinez on Pexels.com
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Be Like Chuck

This is a difficult update to write today. Yesterday we learned that our friend, Chuck Briant, passed away unexpectedly on Monday. We are heartbroken by his passing. Chuck was a huge supporter and advocate for Opal’s Farm and I’m proud to call him my friend. Our prayers are with his family during this difficult time.

Chuck and I met early last summer. Our mutual friend, Harrison had brought him out to the farm. Chuck fell in love with Opal’s Farm right away. He made it a point to stop by the farm frequently, even during the extreme heat of the Texas summer and the blustery chill of winter. He helped harvest, prepare beds for Spring, and keep everyone in line. The only time we didn’t see him was when he went out of town to visit his kids and grandkids.

During the lean times of our first year it was Chuck that helped us through. More than once it was his words that kept me from giving up when it seemed impossible to make our dream of an urban farm a reality. He had an uncanny ability to say just the right thing at just the right time. I can’t tell you how much his encouragement and wisdom helped me grow as not only the Farm Manager, but as a person.

He had an incredible servant’s heart – particularly when it came to making sure everyone had food, healthy food, on the table. His passion was contagious. Most importantly, he served with a humble spirit, often asking to remain anonymous in matters of service. He gave freely – something we should all aspire to.

I think we were all in shock yesterday when we heard the news. Today was a mix of tears and “Chuck stories”. It’s fitting that I was watering in new seed when I got the call yesterday. Chuck was always intent on watering everything in good – sometimes to a fault. He’d always ask if I needed to get some water down. “Those plants look like they need some water”. I could never convince him that they were going to be okay (especially since I’d watered earlier in the day. As I worked the tomato beds today, I could see him standing there with hose in hand.

We’re convinced that Chuck knew everyone. His network of friends was unbelievable, which isn’t surprising given who Chuck was. We used to joke that when we all get to heaven Chuck will be deep in conversation with Jesus and somebody will walk by and ask who that is over there talking to Chuck…

Chuck touched each one of us who knew him in a unique way and helped us all be better people. He is missed more than words can say. We wish everyone could “be like Chuck”. We’d all be better for it.

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Time Out

I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve sat down to write over the last couple of months. The words always fail to make the journey from my brain to my fingers. It’s not “writer’s block”. Emotions rise and shut down everything else in the process. Grief sucks.

I’ve been able to journal somewhat, but I often feel no one wants to hear another story about my grief and so it goes unfinished and unpublished. Unfortunately, that’s about all I can share these days. It doesn’t mean that other things, good things, haven’t been happening. It’s just that sadness and loss over-shadows them all. I miss my son…

I know this is part of the process. There will come a day when sorrow won’t dim the light all around. I’m not sure when that day is, but I know that it will come. My friend Jim used to tell me that in the meantime, it’s a mean time. Until I’m farther along in this journey I’ll feel what I need to feel and try not to be hard on myself…

Although the cloud of grief is never far away there’s much to be grateful for. I’m grateful for the love and support our family has received from so many friends. I’m grateful for Opal’s Farm and the reminder that life is circular – sow, harvest, and repeat – constant resurrection. Over the last couple of months, I’ve seen Jeremy honored in ways I never expected, and I’ve been given places to sit and still my spirit comforted by Jeremy’s “presence”.

One of Jeremy’s friends and fellow artist, Jay Wilkinson, painted a twenty-foot high mural of Jeremy on the side of Hop Fusion Brewery here in Fort Worth. It captures Jeremy perfectly and I can’t think of a better place to put it. Jeremy had done the indoor murals at the brewery. When this coronavirus lets up, I hope you all get a chance to have a cold one and check out Jeremy’s work. You don’t have to wait to see Jay’s work though. Thank you, Jay. You’ve given me a special place to just “be”.

I’m simply amazed…
Thank you Jay

Last Saturday, Juan Valazquez finished a mural at Mananaland, a local gallery where Jeremy had been artist in residence. His likeness now graces the whole front of the building. I was unable to be there when he painted (spray painted mind you!) the piece. Thanks to Desiree, Michael, Baillie, and Adrian for representing the family.

Mananaland – Juan Valazquez

As for my WordPress community, I miss you all. I haven’t read much the last couple of months, so I haven’t maintained contact with those I follow and vice-versa. I’m simply taking a break and letting the process take me where it needs to. Love you all and hope to see you soon.

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Gratitude in the Time of Loss…

I slept in today. It was 7:30 before I greeted the morning with a cup of coffee and some prayer. The Saharan dust cloud that drifted across the Atlantic Ocean and into the southern United States has left a greyish haze over what would normally be a sunny to partly cloudy day. It fit my mood for the day…

Perhaps the coffee hadn’t kicked in yet. At least that’s what I told myself. The reality is that I’m tired. Grief is tiring. It drains me of all energy and drive, leaving me at times with an overwhelming sadness. Some days I simply feel defeated.

It may be too early in the grieving process to find gratitude in loss, but I’ve learned that gratitude is a powerful tool to change perspective and move forward. I can still be grieving the loss of my son and find the gratitude to move forward. Ironically, when I came in from the porch to check emails, the first three were links to articles on gratitude. I’m not huge on the whole numbers/numerology thing, but when I see or hear something three times I tend to listen. That’s usually when God tries to get my attention. This is what came to mind this morning…

First, what I’m going through is a part of life. Grief is a common experience to us all. Life is about birth and death. Everyone experiences loss. The loss of a child is a particular type of pain. My friend Edgar told me that there is no name for our pain. Someone who loses a spouse is a widow or widower. Children who lose their parents are called orphans. There is no name for people who lose their kids. Perhaps it’s because no one can find words for it.

I’m grateful for the outpouring of love and support from my friends and family. I’m especially grateful for those that acknowledge there are no to offer and not trying to offer comfort other than “I’m here”. Jeremy’s passing has shown me how blessed I am with the amazing people God has put into my life. I’m reminded I’m part of a community. Most importantly, I’m thankful I’ve been allowed to feel what I need to feel, and I don’t have to walk this journey alone.

Secondly, I’m extremely grateful for Opal’s Farm. I’ve always told people about “dirt therapy”. I can now say without a doubt it’s truly therapeutic. Something about seeing the cycle of life, death, and rebirth in a garden centers me. It reminds me I’m part of something greater; that I’m a part of creation. After all, that’s why God created man to live in a garden…

Lastly (for this post anyway), it dawned on me this morning that Jeremy’s passing never caused me a crisis of faith. I’ve never doubted God’s goodness during this time. That’s a big deal. Had this happened several years ago I’m not sure I could say that. My coping systems were flawed then. I probably never would have recognized God’s constant presence and protection. I miss Jeremy dearly, but God didn’t “take him” from me. Instead, He’s carrying me through this time of grief. He helps me be there for my grandkids and those left behind who loved Jeremy so much.

“Ghost” by Jeremy Joel

I know there will be good days and bad days in the coming weeks, months, and even years as grief ebbs and flows. I’m still early in the process and the crash is still coming. Thank God for the people in my life who’ve experienced this special kind of pain and will lead me through the process. I know that gratitude can be found in even the most dire of circumstances if I search diligently enough. For those days when gratitude is elusive God will pick me up and carry me until strength returns and I’m able to walk the path hand in hand with Him again…

Courtesy of KERA/Art and Seek

https://artandseek.org/2020/06/10/remembering-jeremy-joel-artist-friend-father/?fbclid=IwAR3_1TgijHW3iZ65otwVcL3-nopdovKXPekEy0h0pIXIBMMCampHnUianSs

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“What a Lon, Strange Trip It’s Been”…

The funeral was today. Jeremy would have liked it. There were tears followed by the laughter as stories were shared amongst our family.

I’m not sure what I feel right now. It’s a sadness no one can know. Only a parent who has lost a child can understand the depth of the pain. My friend Edgar knows the pain of losing a son. He told me we are part of a club we never asked to be in. I get it. I wouldn’t wish this on anyone, but I’m thankful that I have friends like him to walk me through this.

I came home. It somehow seemed fitting to listen to the wisdom of the Grateful Dead. Jeremy would appreciate that. I thought I was cried out until “Box of Rain” came on. I wasn’t. I can’t pin down the reason, but it reminded me of the evenings Jeremy and I sat on the front porch for hours discussing the meaning of life, the universe, and everything in it. I thought I’d leave it with you. Our journey has been a wonderfully “long, strange trip” and I miss my son…

Jeremy and I agreed American Beauty was the best Grateful Dead album ever…