I took a 14 month sabbatical from work and the majority of my responsibilities.
3 years ago our oldest daughter got sick and today she's not here anymore.
I did the bare minimum since April 15th 2018, it was all I could do to get our family by. I pruned way back, cutting dead weight and emotional suckers.
If we were going to survive this tragedy I had to keep my goals simple and manageable. Keep the bills paid, love my girls through this and make art to keep my head right.
"Busy hands, calm mind" was my strategy to spend the hours not sobbing.
Our friends, my wife and our youngest daughter were the ears that were available for comfort those months. They were willing to take a dip into the sadness together and not treat today like it's every other day. They helped wade through waist deep water to tomorrow and didn't dismiss the pain with a quick change of topic. They listened, they shared and they felt.
Survival instinct got my feet to the floor every morning. My hand always reached first for the broken heart waiting for me to strap it back on the second I remembered.
"This is no time to feel sorry for yourself" my inner voice would say. It sounded like an old football coach's voice in my head.
Sharks closed in because they sensed I was injured and thought they could profit. Circling, looking to take a bite out of my life's work. "Looks to me like you have no other choice..." one shark texted me.
Our daughter passing away was a thousand pounds of sad sitting on our dinner table that we had no choice but to eat, bite by bite until the pile was gone.
Sometimes I shared a meal of cold suck with anyone that volunteered to sit at the table with me and down a bowlful themselves. It all had to be eaten or I couldn't get up from that sad table ever.
On occasion I feel something or I see something. It's then that I feel close to her again. It's then that I know there's more.
I believe in revelation and listening guides my actions now.
I'm not the only one in this world, or in this small town, or even at our little church, that has lost a child. No one is ever going to take over this yoke. It's up to me to keep it on my shoulders and keep moving.
It's dumb for me to think anything else.
The missing piece for me was that nothing had meaning anymore. That's where I got stuck. If physical things are meaningless, which they seemed to be, and the people we love most can leave us so quickly, what's the point?
Nothing saps inspiration, creativity and motivation like meaninglessness does.
For me the tipping point was when I figured out that meaninglessness was what I was feeling and that was a problem that I had to deal with.
I could fall one way and live positive and grateful, albeit a little sad on occasion. Or I could fall the other way and wallow forever miserable until I die. There's not usually middle ground in my head.
Nothing grows well in a dysfunctional garden. People, places and things, if it's rotting on the vine, it got cut. Pruning is where new growth happens in nature, and in us, and in our families, and in our lives.
After 14 months of thinking I've realized that life is still good and things are revealed to us by God if we listen.
As long as our heart beats we gotta' stoke every spark inside that lights us up even if it means cutting dead weight or makes you look a little bit crazy.
I used to instruct snowboarding and one secret to snowboarding is learning to ride WITH the terrain, not against it. Fight the hill on a snowboard and you can break your wrist. Ride with the hill and it can be the best day of your life.
Therefore I believe we need to fully ride with God's plan, not against it.
For 48 years I've been riding with and against God's plan. I've been rewarded and I've been broken.
Now I see and feel and pray and listen and hear and obey.
If someone around you suffers unimaginable tragedy and you're thinking "if there was only something I could do"... Sit with them, listen to them, share words if you have something meaningful to share but don't fill uncomfortable silence with random nonsensical chatter. Be willing to eat and really digest a big bowlful of their hurt so they don't have to eat it all themselves.
Ask them "How are you doing today?".
Do it after the chaos subsides and the quiet days come. Those are the days that they need it the most.
Let the peace be still.
Rae recorded this video a few months before she passed. She's the bravest person I will ever know.
I miss that girl every morning.
~ Corey Bornmann