2) IN SEARCH OF A "NEW NORMAL..."
Day 8 - December 13th at 8:33am
It's been a week.... a whole entire week, since my life (and truthfully most of you reading this) was changed forever. Mike and I were so close that we talked off and on throughout the day many times. Even when he was on his mission trips, we talked at least once (usually twice) a day. This morning, the nauseous feeling in my stomach is back and even though grief left me alone yesterday for the most part, she is back today with a vengeance. I guess I've hit one of those "emotional potholes" that someone told me about. You're cruising along and then suddenly you hit one. Today is my dad's birthday. I've always loved birthdays. Today I know that we will go back to my mom and dads to celebrate and I dread it. I was there when I got the phone call that my family had been in an accident. I haven't yet been able to drive by the site where the wreck occurred, but I know I'll have to.... it's so close to where the kids play ball at for school. Yesterday when I went to the highway patrol, I didn't realize the feelings of being so close to the hospital and accident site would make me feel such anxiety. I am not a fearful (or weapy) person by nature but this tragedy has changed me. I dare say I have cried more this past week than the rest of my life combined. I am scheduled to sing Friday night at an event and even the thoughts of entering back out and singing/playing are just too much for me right now. Why are all these "firsts" so hard!?!? I have no doubt that I will play and I will sing again, but I just can't yet. I can't. By nature, I hate disappointing people and the thought of saying it's just too much for me pains me to no end, but the thought of going pains me even more. I really thought I had made strides yesterday. Who knew this one week mark would be so hard? I'm anticipating the "firsts" of everything to be hard, but I hadn't thought about how the everyday stuff would be... Anna lost a tooth the other night. Daddy's birthday is tonight. I haven't even been able to turn on our tv. Every night Mike and I would watch one show that we enjoyed before going to sleep. I haven't been able to turn on his phone yet. I went by the highway patrol yesterday. He got the kids backpacks out of my van. I hadn't even thought about them being covered in glass. They were. In my mind, it would just be easier to go to the van myself to get my stuff out. (You guys from the pick up line at CFA know how much stuff I have in my van!). The trooper said he can't stop me but he begged me not to. My brother drew the short straw and he will be going sometime this morning. Annabelle's teacher said that she was teary yesterday morning at school and she asked to go to her bookbag. She allowed her to go, knowing that Annabelle didn't have her bookbag with her (they were still in the van). Her teacher found her in the hallway crying. She comforted her and put her on her lap to do Bible..... I'm so thankful for people who care for my children and will help them. We went into McDonald's yesterday and the lady behind the counter said, "I want you to know what without your husband my children wouldn't have had Christmas last year.... or thanksgiving this year!" Those stories are so heartwarming for me. Another friend sent me a story of how Mike and I have made a difference in her and her husband's lives. I will treasure these supernatural moments where God is showing me his comfort, love and peace. But today I want to crawl under the covers and cry my eyeballs out. I'll get his death certificates today. I've got a week down and a lifetime to go. Pray for me.....
Day 9 - December 14th at 7:31am
I feel like I must share with you how God is supernaturally moving in my life. Here are a few ways of how God has ministered to me over the last 2 days.... As many of you know, I was really dreading the "New Normal Monday." My mom, mother-in-love and myself walked into McDonalds for lunch on Monday and the lady behind the counter says she is sorry for my loss and begins to share a story of how "if it wasn't for your husband, my children would not have had Christmas last year or Thanksgiving this year!" She even came by our table and hugged us. We left there and went next to the highway patrols office. Someone was waiting to get in, as we were, and when he found out I was the one who had lost her husband, he hugged me and consoled me.... a complete stranger. Yesterday we went by to get the death certificates and then we grabbed us something for lunch at Bojangles. The lady behind the counter paid for mine and moms lunch. We continued our errands and we ended up at Olive Garden last night, where the waitress comes to our table and says someone picked up our check. On the way out of Olive Garden, the nurse, who took care of Mike at the hospital was there with her husband. She recognized my sister because she thought Tracy was me. We were able to talk with her and she was able to tell me everything that happened last Tuesday night. She was able to tell me when his pulse stopped. She was able to tell me how long they did CPR. She was able to put my mind at ease by saying what was standard procedures and what they did, as a medical team, to try and save Mike's life. You have no idea what a comfort it was to hear this information. The Lord knew that I needed to know.... so He made a way for me to find out. Because someone had paid for my dinner, I was able to send an Olive Garden gift card with the hostess to take care of the nurse and her husbands dinner. I knew she wouldn't take it from me directly, but I wanted to say "Thank You" for taking care of Mike. She would say, "That's my job!" And yes, it was her job, but I can never say thank you enough for all that everyone has done to help me through this time! These stories are just a few of the ones that I wanted to share, but there are more. Literally thousands of people have reached out to me on social media. I have about 300 friend requests from people I don't know. I am receiving much financial support from area churches and families which will allow me to provide for my children in the coming days. The truth is that I don't what lies ahead, but I know who holds my hand. I don't understand why Mike's death could have more impact on souls that his life, but I do know, without a doubt, he would have wanted to win souls for the kingdom in both life and death. If you're reading this and you don't know the Lord as your personal savior.... and I mean REALLY know Him, not just in name only..... you can. All you have to do is ADMIT that you are a sinner in need of a Savior. BELIEVE in Jesus Christ and ask Him to come into your heart and forgive you of everything wrong you've ever done. And CONFESS your faith in Him to others. That's it! I pray that the Lord is pouring out his love to you, as He has been to me. Much love to you all today.
Day 10 - December 15th at 10:15pm
Today I had my first extremely frustrated, I must be losing my mind, somebody pray for me ASAP kinda day. I feel like I'm walking in a fog without the ability to make decisions. I can't find nothing. Nothing!!!!! I always accused Mike of hiding things just so he could find them and be the hero. I needed a hero this morning. From losing Eli's jersey (which I'm certain I washed and folded) to losing one of Abi's basketball shoes (which we were convinced had fallen out of the van while it was being towed). I definitely see some routines changing in our future. I marked up a calendar so I could visually look at what was happening each day. I'm in brain overload. Annabelle's teacher said she can tell Anna is having difficulty concentrating too. I can see why! Who knew grief made you this tired!?!? I didn't. I'm thankful for my "bodyguards" who haven't left my side for the last 9 days. Today 12 cards came in the mail! Three people offered to grab supper for me tonight and Tracy brought an entire kitchen full of food from her fellow teachers at work. I've decided that all my ideas of how to do bereavement care in the event of a death have been wrong all this time and I didn't even know it. I feel so blessed that people care about us so much. It seems like people just want to do something... anything... to help ease our pain. I did get me a new van today and I love it. Someone donated 100 teddy bears today for our homeless bags.... another lady sent me a private message last night that said, "I have strayed from God........You are helping me more than you know with your blogs.....I surrender all. Please pray for me and my family. Thank you so much and I'll continue praying for you and your family." (Help me pray for her, will you?) It's amazing to think about how God is still using our tragedy to lead souls into the kingdom. I had to walk into Mike's office today and it made me so very sad. His handwritten notes on the desk... every evidence of a pastor's study visible for all to see.... yet without Mike. I miss him so. Someone told me in a message that Mike would be so proud of me. It's weird to feel like you're married, yet without a spouse, and that is exactly how I feel. I got a letter from the hospital today addressed to him and my heart hurt. I noticed a Dr appt in my calendar for Mike and I dreaded calling to tell them he wouldn't be making it to that appointment. This is exactly how my life is though!!!! Up and down! Up and down! Happy about this and sad about that. I read that experiencing a loss is like waves, I can see that analogy being a perfect example of what I feel like. I feel like I should get an award at the end of each day for making it through. I'm not sure how I'm going to do once my posse leaves .... and me and the kiddos have to go at it alone. We will do it though! One day at a time. One wave at a time.
Day 11 - December 16th at 7:12am
Today I will go into the courthouse and see the man who took the life of my husband. I haven't said too much about this side of things because I felt like I wasn't really ready but today will be the probable cause hearing. This just means that "a crime was probably committed and he probably did it." He could waive his right to a probable cause hearing and if that happens I may not see him today. His attorney may ask for a bond reduction and it may be granted. I've been thankful for the people who have been brutally honest with me about the ins and outs of a case/trial like this. They told me that this process could take up to two years. Would you help me pray that our family does not have to wait that long? I'm praying that this man will plead guilty and spare our family the hardship of a trial. It's hard for me to even comprehend that a "not guilty" plea is possible but a friend reminded me that he has nothing to lose by taking this to trial because he could be in jail for a long time. He could be hoping to get off on a technicality. My heart would break if that happened. I also struggled with how someone could represent him when we know the facts surrounding Mike's death. My friend told me that it is usually a "public defender who drew the short straw because by law, Zachariah Carl has to have the best defense possible." It's difficult to comprehend that people could lie during this time and make up things that aren't true to help this mans case.... to try and create reasonable doubt. I guess they don't realize the God I serve. I have forgiven this man who had forever altered our lives. (I refuse to say "ruined" because sin does not have that kind of power over me and my family!). But even with forgiveness I do feel like he should have to pay for the consequences of his actions. By nature, I'm a forgiving person, so I pray that he does find the Lord in jail and will do the right thing by us. Just so you know, here's what will happen.... once a judge determines probable cause, he will have to be indicted by a grand jury. The grand jury won't meet again until January. This moves the case from district to superior court because you cannot enter a plea for murder in district court. From there, it will go to an administrative trial calendar where it will be continued many times allow all the evidence to come in (his blood alcohol count was sent to the state bureau of investigation and will take 30-90 days to come back). Both sides will have a chance to look over the facts pertaining to the case and it will eventually be placed on a trial calendar. As you can tell, it's long and drawn out. He could try and plead guilty to a lesser offense (like involuntary manslaughter which carries a MUCH lesser time served). I pray the district attorney will say "No" to those things. Please pray that God's will would be done in everything that is done and said. I covet your prayers through the next wave.
Thank you so much for your prayers! I could feel them. The defendant waived his right to a probable cause hearing and did not even want to ask for a bond reduction. I praise God for going ahead of us today!
"Single mother"....... "widow" ....... "victim"...... yuck!
Day 12 - December 17th at 8:51am
Another day... another first. Anna cheers in her first game today. It makes me sad that Mike isn't here to see her. I asked her last night if she missed her daddy super bad and she said "Yeah. I just try to forget. If I'm playing, I can forget." I know that children grieve differently than adults so it's to be expected that her sadness will come later. I had to fill out some paperwork for health insurance the other night and it asked me if I was married. There was either a "yes" or "no" answer. It was like I had to think through it. I feel like there should be a "yes - in my heart" answer. I do feel like I'm still married to Mike. I have these new "titles" that I don't like! "Single mother"....... "widow" ....... "victim"...... yuck! I never wanted to be any of those. I struggled with even what to call "the defendant." (That's what we decided on..... just Defendant.) I didn't want to call him by his first name, I didn't want to always say "the man who killed Mike....". So just "Defendant" will work. I found comfort in a trooper who came to me yesterday and spoke to me about his sincere interest in justice for my case because he, too, lost his wife in a motor vehicle accident several years ago. I found peace knowing that it's been 3 years for him and even though he had tears in his eyes as he spoke to me, he has made it 3 years! He's not in Frye South or Broughton.... he's a successful man advocating for people like me. Every single day the Lord shows me just how much he loves me. It's like I cry because I'm touched by everyone's kindness toward me and I feel unworthy, but then sometimes I feel like the world wouldn't be enough to comfort the loss I feel. I will say that with each passing day, it does get a tiny bit more bearable. My emotions aren't as "on the surface" as they were 11 days ago. I feel a little more in control than I was then too. I need to finish up my Christmas shopping. I need to actually wrap presents. I keep pushing myself along.... I'm not ready to tackle anything big yet. This process is much slower than I would like. I'm used to bouncing back quickly, but in this case, I'm not who I was before the accident. I'm just not. I know that's hard for people to hear and they just want you to be your old normal self again, operating in the same capacity as before, but I'm just not that person anymore. I can't believe how much of my identity was wrapped up in my marriage with Mike. I mean... we were one! We had a marriage the Bible talked about. A good, happy marriage. I know the Lord has a plan for me and my future, but I also know it's not to be a pastor's wife any longer. You can't be a pastor's wife without being the wife of a pastor and I'm not that anymore. It's just the truth. I have some ideas, maybe, of what God might be leading me to do. I guess time will tell. Much love to you all..... give your spouse an extra hug today and tell them you love them!
Day 13 - December 18th at 7:22am
This morning my heart feels dry and empty. I wish I could roll over and go back to sleep but I'm awake now and that just won't happen. I've been blessed to be able to sleep through the night, because I know some people have difficulty sleeping during difficult times. Thankfully the kids have been able to sleep through the night as well. Anna did so well cheering yesterday! Someone who sat beside of my sister at Anna's game said that last week Upward prayed specifically for the Vanderburg's in between each game. How precious is that. I went to Belk to return something I had bought Mike for Christmas and when the lady asked me if anything was wrong with it, I burst into tears while attempting to tell her it was for my husband who was killed by a drunk driver. I have told you before that I am not a crier by nature but certain little things will set me off like a ticking time bomb. I hate not being in control of my emotions. The Lord knew I needed reinforcements so He made sure my aunt and uncle would bump into me for a hug and words of encouragement. Tiffany, my sister in love, and Malorie, one of my best friends, helped me with my present wrapping last night. At least I'm at a better place now to know what else I need to buy to be ready for Christmas next weekend. I'm also thankful to have the money to be able to go out and get what else I need. I've always loved Christmas. I love celebrating Jesus' birth, the cantatas, the parties, the gifts, shopping, the songs.... I've always loved it all. Part of me feels that losing Mike is magnified by losing him at Christmas. My friend lost her mother on Thanksgiving Day and I know how difficult that has been on them in terms of being able to celebrate. I'm a festive person at heart. One of my teachers gave me a simply southern shirt the other day and it has a pink elephant on the back with the scripture "Every good and perfect gift comes from above." I've worn it many times in the last few days because picking out what to wear has become a horrid chore. My difficulties with making decisions is still there but at least I feel a little of it coming back. Maybe it's that I just don't want to make decisions.... we do plan on going to our church this morning. Abi told my sister that she has reservations about it. I think we all do. Pray for Brother Smith this morning as he brings the Word. I know people will be glad to see us but I also know our presence will make it more difficult to minister to the congregation. I look forward to the day when I am able to jump back in again and sing/play. Someday. Someday......
Tonight is our first night in our home with just the 4 of us. I know we have to cross this bridge sometime and although I know the timing is right, I was not prepared for it. The kids asked if we could order a pizza.... an activity that we have enjoyed doing at least once a week for several years. I didn't think about how difficult it would be deciding what to order because in the past, Mike and I would split a pizza and the kids would too. We crossed that hurdle and the pizza was delivered. Eli turned the TV to Americas Funniest Home Videos (something we usually watch while we eat pizza) and every stinking video seemed to have a dad in it and served as a spear in my side, a reminder that my children don't have a daddy anymore. The longer we sat there the more difficult it became to eat. Anna said she was feeling sick. I agreed. I finally told the kids to get ready for bed. Eli has always been the one who wants to talk at bedtime. He was so pitiful tonight. He cried his eyes out over the things he didn't get to do with his dad. He said everything in our house reminds him of his daddy and he described how painful that is for him. He cried about how he wished "that man" had made better choices so he would not have lost his daddy. My heart is broken for him. It's broken for all of us. I scratched his back and reminded him of all the good things and then prayed for him. I'm trusting the Lord to comfort him in his sleep and give him rest.
Day 14 - December 19th at 5:25am
It's 5:18am and I've been attempting to go back to sleep for about an hour. There comes a point when you just figure "I might as well get up and do something." I figure I will work on my Christmas list.... or maybe my new budget...... or maybe I'll look for that one last gift that Mike hid for Eli that I still cannot find. Although I have been able to sleep, when I wake up, I cannot go back to sleep if my brain tricks me into waking up too early. There will be much to do today.... but we can do this.
Day 15 - December 20th at 5:04pm
Who knew that you had to do so much stuff when someone passes away?!?!? I've accomplished a lot over the last two weeks but I still have so much more to do. The death certificate is the key to unlocking the doors in the world of estates. Everybody and their brother needs one. I haven't cried today! But then again our meeting with our grief counselor isn't until 6. The kids aren't sure what to expect. I think they will eventually grow to enjoy their individual time with her. I'm finished with my Christmas shopping. Well.... I say that and then I think of another thing I need to pick up. I may have splurged a little on the kids..... maybe. :) I can tell that I will have to be careful to not try and overcompensate for the kids losing their dad with material things. I know that this will be the hardest Christmas of their lives so if a present takes that away for a few minutes, I'm ok with it. I'll worry about the rest later. I conquered the fear and dread of driving past the accident site yesterday. I got tired of worrying about it.... so I drove by.... trying to wrap my head around how this happened. It's hard to believe it's been 2 weeks. It's like the world stopped and sped up all at the same time. People are still pouring out their kindness to me and my family. Writing thank you notes is going to be quite an undertaking. Thanks for checking in on me..... my love to you all.