Thursday, October 23, 2008

Remembering Lisa

I met Lisa through another friend, Elysa. We were all using the same Five in a Row homeschool curriculum and Lisa connected with Elysa through the curriculum's message board. That was back when I wanted as little to do with the computer as possible. It turned out that Lisa lived in another neighborhood off of the same road my neighborhood was off of and her boys were a year older and a year younger than my boy. Elysa started a Five in a Row group and I first met Lisa the day I picked her and the boys up to take them out to Elysa's place nearly an hour away in the country. We quickly became friends and we all had a lot of fun participating in activities like a Scottish night where the boys wore kilts we made, a Passover Seder where Elysa's husband taught us all to dance to Jewish music, and many others. And Lisa started attending our church.

As our friendship grew Lisa opened up to me. Eventually, she allowed me to come into her home. It was bad. Have your kids taken away bad. She was a single mom working 2 to 3, 12 hour shifts each weekend. Her ex-husband had moved in with her to save money while he got his own business started the year prior. He did not contribute anything aside from the child support he'd been ordered to pay by the court. He looked after the boys when she was at work and she took care of everything else. She needed help so I rolled up my sleeves and got to work.

Lisa was bipolar and also suffered from fibromyalgia. She would do what she needed to do to keep going at work but on her days off she had trouble getting out of bed. She also wanted desperately to reconcile with her ex-husband and allowed him to take advantage of her. She called me one day in tears because she had found a pair of women's panties in his overnight bag when she was doing his laundry. She sat in a chair and cried while I packed up all of his things and placed them in the driveway. It was my hope that they would reconcile as well but I knew that it couldn't happen in the situation they were in. We maintained contact with her ex-husband and he began attending our church as well.

I tried to help Lisa by holding her accountable in the mornings and made sure that she got up. She would ignore my calls so I would do obnoxious things like crow like a rooster until she picked up. She would be laughing and tell me how crazy I was. Sometimes though, even my acting like a fool wouldn't work and I'd have to drive over to her house and I'd ring her doorbell, beat on her door and one time... even her windows. We started homeschooling together in another attempt to keep her accountable. We would switch off whose house we met at and when we were at her house we would work on getting her house in order. A lot of times that meant she sat with the kids at the table to keep them on task and made us lunch while I worked on organizing her things. We also put down a pergo floor finishing it at 4 am the day she was having all of her family over for the first time in years for her son's birthday. Many from our church also came that day.

We had a lot of fun. The kids called us "Laughaholics." She had a wonderful laugh and it meant a lot to me to be able to help her and see progress. She had a big hound dog that my oldest daughter named Tinker. Oh my Lord was that dog a pain! He barked and barked. One of her neighbors took to throwing golf balls at him over the fence and she got nasty anonymous letters in her mailbox. She decided to buy one of those shock collars to see if that would work. Lisa put the collar on Tinker and then let him loose in the backyard with all of the kids. Of course, he didn't just start barking so we stood there quite awhile at the door waiting. When she got her chance she pushed the button but nothing happened... so she turned it all the way up. Tinker was bounding about and having a great time. Then he barked. She hit that button and that dog, I kid you not, flipped up and over and landed on all fours and then would not move. He looked like he hadn't a clue as to what had just happened and was afraid if he moved it would happened again. We laughed so hard my jaw and my sides hurt. He eventually shook it off and got to barking again. That time he was near the fence and threw himself up against the fence. The look on that poor dogs face! She did turn it down to a more acceptable level and Tinker caught on pretty quick. In fact, he wouldn't bark at all when that collar was on but sure would make up for it when it wasn't! He seemed to know when the batteries were running low too. He later ended up at her brother's hunting camp where he could bark all he wanted.

We went to a women's retreat with our church down in Panama City Beach, Florida. She and I drove down early in my husband's new Oldsmobile Intrigue. That car was smooooth and I loved driving it. We made it down in record time and hours before everyone else. We had a little scare at a gas station where I almost hit a pump. Kind of scared the employee a bit. She got a real kick out of that. She also got a kick out of the fact that I got a speeding ticket for going 94 miles an hour on the way home while we blasted Praise & Worship music. I had learned that things like that went over better if I told my husband right away and made sure there was some time and space between us when I did. She was really tickled when our Pastor called on my cell phone about an hour later and referred to me as "Mario Ankelly." It so happens the one and only ticket I've gotten in Colorado happened to be while I was on the cell phone with her.

Helping Lisa wasn't easy. The last year we lived in Mississippi we put our oldest in a private school for kids with learning difficulties. We were very happy with what they were able to accomplish and I talked Lisa into enrolling her boys the second semester. She only had to get the boys up and ready and my husband drove them all to school. There were times she wouldn't get out of bed and I would get frustrated. I'm not good at setting boundaries and I made a mistake with Lisa in that I allowed her to rely on me too much. She took our moving very hard. I had a heart to heart with her before we left and I told her that she needed to put her trust in God and that she needed to allow Him to work through her.

A couple of months later Lisa ran into some trouble. The boys weren't getting to school and she was very depressed. Her brother took the boys and she checked into a hospital for a month. She was released just before Christmas and her father gave her and the boys plane tickets to come see us. They came the day after Christmas and stayed until January 2nd. The boys weren't back with her long before they went back to live with her brother and his wife.

We went down to Mississippi for Thanksgiving that year. It also happened to be in the midst of a crisis of another dear friend. A nurse friend of Lisa's and I were throwing her a 40th birthday party that was originally supposed to be at that other friend's house. Things were crazy and there were some misunderstandings... and I didn't believe some things Lisa told me which hurt her. We were able to work it out but it never really was the same between us after that. The last time I saw her was the following June when we went down for a wedding, three years ago.

I hadn't had any contact with Lisa for a year when Elysa called me last week. At the time she made the call all that was known was that Lisa had died. But I knew. Within less than 24 hours I was on a plane. I needed her family to know that I cared. I needed them to know that I loved her...

Lisa's stepfather had a massive coronary in September and was in the ICU when she called her mother and told her that she needed her to come get her to check her into a hospital. As was often the case with Lisa, when someone else was going through something major she would do something to draw the attention back to herself. Her mother would not leave her husband so her friend and fellow nurse took her. Her stepfather died. She stayed in the hospital for a week and they changed up her meds. She seemed to be doing much better. She went back to work and told her friend and fellow nurse that she wasn't feeling well and needed to go home. She killed herself the next morning. After two days of not being able to reach Lisa, her friend let herself into Lisa's house with her key and found her.

As with so many areas, many Christians do not agree on what happens to those who take their own lives. I've been reading my bible and looking at what others believe and why and I just don't know for certain. But... I did know Lisa. I saw through her actions to her heart. She did not believe she was worthy of love. I knew her hopes and dreams. I knew how desperately she wanted to be different than she was. I was there many times as she cried out to God and I held her while I prayed for her. Some people carry pain that is so deep and so wide that they just cannot let it go. In my search to come to terms with this I came across Psalm 88 and I'd like to share it.

"O LORD, God of my salvation,
I have cried out day and night before You.
Let my prayer come before You;
Incline Your ear to my cry.

For my soul is full of troubles,
And my life draws near to the grave.
I am counted with those who go down to the pit;
I am like a man who has no strength,
Adrift among the dead,
Like the slain who lie in the grave,
Whom You remember no more,
And who are cut off from Your hand.

You have laid me in the lowest pit,
In darkness, in the depths.
Your wrath lies heavy upon me,
And you have afflicted me with all Your waves.
You have put away my acquaintances far from me;
You have made me an abomination to them;
I am shut up, and I cannot get out;
My eye wastes away because of affliction.

LORD, I have called daily upon You;
I have stretched out my hands to You.
Will You work wonders for the dead?
Shall the dead arise and praise You?
Shall Your lovingkindness be declared in the grave?
Or Your faithfulness in the place of destruction?
Shall Your wonders be known in the dark?
And Your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?

But to You I have cried out, O LORD,
And in the morning my prayer comes before You.
LORD, why do You cast off my soul?
Why do You hide Your face from me?
I have been afflicted and ready to die from my youth;
I suffer Your terrors;
I am distraught.
Your fierce wrath has gone over me;
Your terrors have cut me off.
They came around me all day long like water;
They engulfed me altogether.
Loved one and friend You have put far from me,
And my acquaintances into darkness."

The New King James Version

That is a pretty dark Psalm full of hopelessness. It echoed for me some of the things Lisa said to me in the past... some of the things she cried out while weeping bitterly. I myself can identify with some of the feeling behind the Psalm. There is nothing worse as a believer than to feel cut off from God... to feel that He doesn't love you. I believe Lisa was mentally ill. I believe she wanted nothing more than to not be that way.

Why? I don't understand. Part of me feels that she was incredibly selfish and that what she has put her family and friends through is unforgivable. My heart is breaking for the friend that found her. Lisa knew she would be the one to find her because she had a key. Why would she do that? She has left her brother to not only raise her children but to clean up all of her messes. The burden her brother is carrying right now as he goes through all of her financial things... figure out what to do with all of her stuff and sell her house... the emotional fall out... how can he do it?

Why? Where does God fit in in all of this? I knew her... I knew her prayers. Why did they go unanswered? Why?

If someone is mentally ill are they held responsible for it? How can they be if it is something beyond their control? Some people aren't born with boot straps to pull on.

Life is precious, is it not? At first glance Lisa's life was marked by failure. It is easy to see all that went wrong. Lisa would have been forty-four next month. When she fell down, she fell down big. All of us are broken in some way, aren't we? I've never fallen down as far as Lisa did but I do know what it has taken for me to get back up when I have. How much more did it take Lisa all those times she did get back up? How much harder was it for her when so many of her faults were out there for all to see? Will all her efforts be lost amidst her greatest failure? Is that all she will be remembered by?

Mercy does not give what is deserved. Grace gives what is not deserved. I pray God's mercy and grace are covering Lisa and that she is now whole and at peace. Even though things did not work out as I hoped they would in Lisa's life, she was worth every moment of my time and I will remember her valiant effort.


Laura ~Peach~ said...

how sad and I too question the accountability of mentally ill persons. ones who have cried out over and over to God yet felt they had no answer or connection. I do believe Mercy does not give what is deserved. Grace gives what is not deserved. I worry for my mother and her eternal life We often wonder why she is still alove as she by all rights should not be yet all I can do is pray that some how some way God is able to fix her fragile mind and she can know peace.
love and hugs and what a wonderful friend you are :)

Flea said...

CB - you are a good friend, a valiant warrior for the weak, the ill. Lisa was ill. And yes, probably very selfish. I'm sorry for her children, her family, and their loss. But I pray, as you, for God's mercy and grace in the midst of their sorrow. And for you. God uses us as instruments to heal sometimes. And sometimes just as life support. I know your influence in her boys' lives was beyond words.

Sheri said...

What a beautiful, yet tragic, story.

After my brother died, I know I struggled with what happens after. Brad had a lot of behavioral problems, and while was good at heart, made some very poor decisions. One thing that was told to me, that really helped me, was this. God knows our hearts. He knows what we are capable of, and what we are not capable of. He is a loving, merciful God, who wants to accept all of his children to be with him. I can't help but believe that it's not a cut and dry, "You were good, and you were bad" but rather, lots of different factors considered. My thoughts and prayers are with you and Lisa's family.

Angie said...

Thank the Lord for people like you. I probably wouldn't have been able to stick it out with Lisa--I'd be too frustrated and concerned with how her problems were affecting my life.

May God bless you with caring, compassionate friends as you have been to others.

AmusedMomma said...

What a loving tribute to your friendship with Lisa. I pray that all those who loved her find peace and a way to remember the best of her.

Just Me said...

I am saddened and sorry that Lisa hurt so badly she couldn't find the courage to live, to find one reason to give life another day. I can't imagine the depth of her despair. My heart aches for her family and friends now left with a sea of questions.

We can only guess at how God views suicide. It is clear that He loved her enough to not abandon her in her suffering, giving her reasons to live (her sons) and family and friends who cared enough to help wherever they could.

It goes against my Catholic upbringing, but I also believe that he can forgive her suicide. She is His child and His creation.

Trisha said...

I often struggle with questions like yours. Why doesn't God help the people who are sufferring so much that they feel taking their own lives is the only way out? Then I go back to the thought that God has a plan for everyone. We are not able to know these plans and sometimes they are at direct odds with what we would have our life plans be. However, there is a purpose.

I also believe that God is merciful and is not the vengeful God of the Old Testament. He loves all of his children and will enfold them in his loving arms if they know him and love him. Even if they make a mistake.

Kathy said...

You write with passion and compassion, your words are wise and wonderful, even your questions.
I am so sorry for the loss of Lisa and the pain felt by her family and loved ones.
Faith. The older I get the more questions I have and fewer answers. Faith; that God is good, always!

Because of this post, I am going to sit down and write letters to a few of my good friends, miles away but always in my heart.

Peace and hugs Jellybean

Just Me said...

I realize you're grieving for your friend.

I've been wondering, though, how your brother is faring after his accident.

Coffee Bean said...

Hey Just Me,

My brother has healed remarkably fast physically. He lost everything though... he walks a troubled road to be sure. We have invited him to come live with us. He does not want to leave his daughter in California but things are such that he may have no choice but to come here. We would love to be able to give him a place of true rest and the opportunity to start over fresh. I am so very blessed to have Mr. Macchiato for my husband and he truly loves Trevor and there is absolutely no hesitation on his part to have him come here... which makes me love him even more. So we are waiting to see what will happen and I am preparing a place for him so all is ready if he does choose to come.

MaBunny said...

Wow CB, so sorry for the loss of your friend. That was a sad , yet endearing story.
My husbands father took his life, and we will never know why. I never knew him, it was when my hubby was like 15 yrs old , and the only thing anyone could figure out was that he got some bad news at the doctor appt he had been to the day before. We will never know. People in that situation, that feel that is the only way out are truly in need of God at that moment.

Deborah said...

CB...As I was reading the comments, I was wondering what I could possibly say...then I read your answer about your brother.
You are an amazingly giving person...with all that you did to help your friend and her family, and in the midst of your grief you are already reaching out to help someone else!
God bless you!

Accidental housewife said...

It is hard to loose a friend. It is even harder when that friend takes their own life. Just know you did the best you could and the rest you left up to God. You have to know your friend needed to take responsibility for her life and when it became to much she decided to let someone else have it. I don't think our God is such a hateful God that he would not let a good person into heaven. I believe God loves us all and with flaws and all. Bless you and please know my prayers are with you and your friend.

noexcuses said...

What an beautiful tribute to a friend! I am so very sorry for your loss, and for the loss to her sons. What a wonderful thing for her brother to step in and take care of everything.

I am a believer, and when things aren't going well, I trust that it is God trying to tell me something. I just ask him to show me what it is that he wants me to do.

Your faith is strong, and this heartache that you feel right now will wane. I hope that you can soon smile when you think of Lisa, and remember the beautiful parts of her that God showed to you.

God Bless you.

Cheffie-Mom said...

I'm so sorry you lost your friend. You were a blessing in Lisa's life. This is a beautifully written post.

Karen Deborah said...

You are right about mercy and grace. Those who take their own lives are suffering unimaginable pain. The strongest drive in us is too live and survive. It takes a pain that only these know. You have so much love to give, keep giving.

Just Me said...

It's wonderful that you can open your door to your brother. As long as his daughter is in trustworthy hands, hopefully he'll take you up on the opportunity.

I'm glad he's physically doing well. Your posts after his accident sounded scary and full of unknowns.

Linda said...

That was a really nice post about Lisa, Kelly. The whole situation was all very sad. I pray that Lisa has finally found some peace. Love you!

Melody said...

I am so glad that only Christ can judge us for our mistakes. It leaves me with peace, because he truly knows our heart and loves us in spite of ourselves.

Lisa will be taken care of.

I will pray for you and her family that comfort will come to each. What a hard thing to have happen.

Angela said...

My best friend killed himself when I was four months pregnant with my first born. Sigh. Like you, I struggled with the whole Christian aspect of it. A priest said to me when I shared with him, "if he had cancer and died, if he had a heart attack and died..mental illness IS an illness". (((hugs)) Thank you for sharing this. I know it must have been hard to write,,,and Lisa KNEW she was loved by you!