Tuesday, March 17, 2009

I've Got Peace Like a River...

Joe, Adam, Baby Jakob
February 13, 1995

I've got peace like a river! I've got peace like a river!
I've got peace like a river in my soul!

I've got peace like a river! I've got peace like a river!
I've got peace like a river in my soul!

African American Spiritual
The world is a crazy busy place, I know. I manage my family's business with my husband. We work all the time. Literally. All the time.
In spare moments -- moments between one crisis or another -- we breathe. We pray. We parent. We volunteer. We celebrate.
We have a full life. And it is good... so good. Still, it's life.
The other night our son asked a question that marked a FULL STOP! to everything I was doing. Everything. There was no noise. I even held my breath.
"How do you know," he asked, "if you need to take anti-depressants?"
I sat. Hard. Maybe I was already sitting.
"Well," I breathed. "Why are you wondering?"
Adam taught me to be cautious like this. He once asked my husband "What is a condom?" and my husband answered. Turned out the eight-year-old wasn't wondering about birth control, but more about making animals out of balloons. I don't know. It made sense at the time.
Adam's been wrestling big issues for a few years.
"I've been praying my HEART out for Uncle Scott," he once yelled at me after discussing prayer in pre-Confirmation class. "And he's not better. Why isn't God helping him?" He asked that question not long after my drug-addicted brother was arrested and on his way to what would become a four-year prison sentence.
"Oh!" my heart rejoiced silently for a brief moment. "Thank God! In his silence, my son prays!"
"But, Adam. Your prayers help. Scott's in a safe place and Jesus wants him. He won't take Scott though. Scott has to choose." Thank You, God, for the words.
Another day I asked who he wanted to invite to his Confirmation. He named the usual. The family. The Godparents. The Kounkels. Grandpa Gordy and Cindy. He stopped.
I waited. Nothing more. Imagine a white elephant in the room.
"What about Grandma Jenny?" I finally asked. Over the last year, Grandma, the white elephant in our room, has been gaining momentum in her slide down the slope of addiction.
I waited.
There's always been a lot of waiting during my conversations with Adam. In the first days we were home from the hospital, we sat (I sat. He was a baby blob.) on the floor gazing at each other. "I have no idea what to do with you now that you're here," I said, somehow expecting an answer as he drifted off to newborn dreamland. I still wonder what I should be doing with him when there's silence.
"Well," he said finally. "I think the best thing we can do for someone who's lost and broken is to keep loving them. And I think inviting Grandma shows her we love her. I'd like to invite her.
Grace from the mouth of a seventeen-year-old boy/man, in those moments when his focus was on his own sprint toward his adult Christian life.
So, anti-depressants.
Adam told me things that night about being sad. He's sad for his uncle who's struggling out of past addiction and trying to make his way in a hostile world. He's sad for his addicted grandma who deserted us. He's sad for his grandpa's cancer and radiation experience. He's sad about their divorce. He's sad about choices friends have made. He's sad that people fail to see Truth.
And you know, it's okay to be sad.
Everything he mentioned is a HUGE life event, and he's experienced all those things in a year. If he weren't sad, I'd be worried about him.
Since he's sad, I'm worried about him.
Of course, the hard question followed. "Adam, have you had thoughts about dying? About hurting yourself?"
"Suicide? No. It's not my job to decide when my life is finished. No. I want to live." Confident answer of a boy/man still learning the geography of his world.
Though it was a serious conversation about big issues, there was abundant love and laughter in that conversation. It reminded me of a conversation we'd had when he was ten. He'd come to sit on the couch beside me. He was quiet. I finally looked at him. In his best I'm-not-going-to cry-like-a-baby voice, he said, "I need you to make me feel better like you did when I was little." Easier said than done. Maybe it's as simple as sharing a moment with someone without allowing distraction -- being still with them.
From the first stirrings I felt when Adam was growing inside my body, peace invaded my life. I was so sick in the early months of pregancy I couldn't do anything except hold perfectly still. We spent his first newborn weeks sharing a wonderful silence, observing each other. My hand fit the curve of his skull perfectly; if i close my eyes I can remember how it felt resting in my hand. The caress of my hand around his head relaxed him to sleep every night. I guess even now the feel of my hand on his head would ease him.
How can words describe that marvelous intimacy? For the first time in my twenty-two years, I knew unconditional love. I can only imagine God feels the same way about us.
Since Anti-Depressant Night, we talk about being sad regularly. I didn't know we should before he asked his question. Honoring Adam's privacy and without drama, his dad talked to people in Adam's life who care about his success. He has a support system -- a network of people who root for him every day. They have done marvelous things for Adam in recent weeks. I trust these people to help us keep our boy safe and help ease his grief by being with him. I'm in awe of these people and how they love our boy.
And all this will make him the man he's becoming. Thank God.


  1. Kari,

    Your writings never cease to amaze me. You are incredibly gifted, and I hear my heart in yours when you write!

    I am praying for you...this particular blog was very informative for me. I was not fully aware of all that you have been "holding" in your heart until today. I suspected but was unsure... I care, and I am praying...

  2. Thank YOU Laurie. Writing is therapy. It makes my fingers tingle when I start, leaves me breathless at times, and renewed when I'm finished. One thing I never feel is self-doubt. Oh that that were true in daily life!

    The rest... the missing chapter... is about ready to burst, so one day I'll let it all spill.

    Bless you!