On Thoughts and Prayers

Three little words that get a bad rap.

You mark time differently when you’ve been through a devastating loss.

This past Sunday was 9 months since Parker passed, back on November 23rd, 2019. That date now carries enormous baggage for me. This may or may not change as time heals, but the word “November,” the number “23,” and even the year “2019” all set off a tiny little pit in my stomach when I see them.

We know November 23rd, 2020 will be a tough day, but the truth is, so will November 22nd and November 24th. There are a lot of tough days when you’ve lost a 16-year old child, brother, grandson, nephew, and friend.

And yet even the toughest of days have been filled with glimpses of joy and hope. We have much to be thankful for, including the hope that Parker’s soul is eternal and that his faith in Jesus’ words were well-founded.

I believe those things, which is why I can wake up every day believing good things can happen, love can be given and received, Parker can be honored for the amazing person that he was, and God can be glorified.

Nine months later, we are doing better than you might think.

We have our bad days and bad moments for sure - a lot of them in fact - but in light of what we’ve been through, I am amazed at where we are. I don’t want to speak for Erica and Kylie, but I think they would mostly agree with that statement. (Speaking of Kylie, we move her into college tomorrow, and we are so excited for her!)

We also know that grief is not linear, so we never want to assume that healing will continue on a prescribed path as time passes. That’s not how it works, so we do the work to heal, for each other as much as for ourselves. We confide in friends and in each other, we talk to trained counselors, we lean into our faith, and we swim through the awful waves of grief so we don’t drown in them.

Despite the healing there is still a heaviness and a weight that remain constant. I doubt it will ever go away. Parker’s death will never make sense. There will never be a silver lining. For as long as I live, I will always feel robbed of decades of life enjoying his sweet presence because of an ignorant, foolish mistake that he made. It’s a mistake so many others make without paying the price of their life, and yet he did. As his father and as his friend, I will never not be crushed by that.

So why, then, are we doing better than you might think on most days?

For me, it’s three little words: Thoughts and Prayers

Yes, those three words that get overused whenever a tragedy happens. Those three words that are so easy to say, even if they are sometimes not followed up on. Those three words that are the butt of jokes because they are sometimes played like a trump card when they should also be accompanied by other actions, but aren’t.

I know they have a bad rap, but for me, they have meant everything.

Your prayers are giving me life.

If you have prayed for our family over these last nine months, I want you to know that it is helping.

I don’t know how it works, exactly, but I believe that God honors faith, love, sacrifice, and selflessness. So when you take time out of your day to not only think of us, but to petition God on our behalf to bring peace, healing, and joy, that He responds to it.

I'm reminded of the story in Mark where a bunch of friends stop at nothing to get their buddy in front of Jesus for his healing touch, literally even tearing the roof off a house. Jesus responds to THEIR faith and desperation and heals the friend in need.

How wonderful is that? The faith of one person bringing healing and hope to someone else? I love that.

If you have prayed for us, please know that those prayers have played a part in moving the heart of God to bring healing to us in ways I wondered were possible. We still need them, so keep lifting them up.

Your thoughts are giving me life, too.

The cards, the texts, and the DMs letting us know that you are thinking of us mean so much. This has maybe been the most surprising thing to me because the math doesn’t really add up.

You send a simple note that you thought of us and somehow it lightens the burden of grief we are experiencing. Think of how amazing that is. My circumstances haven’t changed, but because you told me you were thinking of me, my feelings have. That kind of blows my mind, and yet that has been my experience.

It’s such a small act, with such a powerful impact.

I also think it’s important for you to know that reaching out and letting us know that you were thinking of us is never going to ruin our day. You may think, “Well, if they are having a great day today and then I tell them I was thinking about them and then it makes them think of losing Parker and they get sad, then I will have actually made their day worse.”

Believe me when I say that’s not how it works.

If we are having a good day, it's not because we are distracted from the loss of Parker. It's because even in spite of that ever-present loss, we have found some joy in our faith, in friends, in family, in hobbies, in good food, in nature, or in some other way.

When you reach out with a kind word or a thought, it does not pull us back into a reality we've been trying to escape from. On the contrary, it pushes us deeper into the reality of the joy and hope we still cling to. It reinforces our faith in a God that still provides his presence and love, and promises to continue to do so for our souls even after our hearts stop beating.

So please, don’t ever hesitate to let us know you’re thinking of us because you fear it may be a negative thing. That’s an insidiously clever lie from the enemy, which is all the more reason to ignore the thought and to reach out.

Thanks for caring enough to read this. Know that our bad days and bad moments are terrible. The weight of losing Parker at times feels unbearable. But through the dark valleys we know God is with us, and we’re thankful that some of you are too, because of your thoughts and prayers.

There are many times where love demands more than those three little words. I know this because so many of you have taken actions over the past 9 months to show us love in so many different ways. We are so grateful for all of it.

But your thoughts and prayers?

They have been so life-giving.

Thanks, and keep them coming.