Monday, October 26, 2015

When hope feels hard...

“Ok…. I’m doing it today,” I tell myself. I have avoided the luggage haunting my living room corner for almost 2 weeks. Mondays are one of my few mornings without commitments, so I decide to tackle the dreaded task.

Today I unpacked the bags that my parents took on that fateful trip that took their lives, as well as the life of their beloved friend Ryan Hrubes… his wife Emily being the only survivor.

It hit me so strongly as I sat cross-legged on the floor, and it seems so obvious, but they had no plans to die. Each neatly folded clothing article stands testament to the future they planned to live. This trip was but one pit stop on the journey of their mapped-out future.

The realization that they didn’t plan to die was quickly replaced by the smothering sensation that I- no, WE weren’t prepared for them to die. There is no way to fully articulate how much we have relied on my parents’ counsel, friendship, and guidance even as adult children. We each talked to them every single day. So what do you do when the bottom of your world drops out? I’m figuring that out. Unfortunately, I am an involuntary participant in my worst nightmare. The best way I can describe it is: someone learning to function that has lost an appendage. You never realize how much you use your hand, foot, leg, or arm until it’s gone (I imagine). We (my siblings and I) are learning to live without a piece of our lives that is as engrafted as using our own arms and legs. Let me just tell you: it’s not fun.

“I know how important it is to hope,” I told my cousins this morning… “But I’m not even sure what to hope for. I feel lost.” Darkness clawed at my heart. I called my husband. I wept into the phone. I tried to wipe the tears off my face fast enough that my 2 and 3 year old didn’t see me crying as they came down the stairs. “Mom, you miss Nonnie and Tyty?” My perceptive 3 year old’s question ripped at my heart… I don’t want him to grow up with memories of a momma who is always sad. I’m careful to not be too sad in front of him.

Sweet baby. Yes, I miss them. I’m glad they are in heaven, but you have no idea what you will be missing out on your whole life. That’s why I cry. I cry for all the times I will miss them to come. I cry because this pit of grief feels too deep and dark and long.

“Theo, I do miss Nonnie and Tyty, but I’m happy they are with Jesus…” is my 3-year-old appropriate answer… “It’s ok to cry because we love someone.”

A tiny sliver of light breaks off some of the heaviness I’m carrying when my cousin Joy sends me a link to Ann Voskamp’s blog. It’s about hoping when you just feel like giving up. I read it quickly, devouring the idea that I can feel even the slightest hope today… on a hard day.

Joy texts me back. Her instructions for what to hope for read: “hope that it will get better, hope that Jesus will be enough, hope that you can really live fully again, hope that you are and will be a powerhouse for the Lord, hope that the heaviness and sadness will go away… because of Jesus we have hope…”

It sounds like a pretty comprehensive list to me. I’m too tired to hope on my own so I simply allow myself to use her text as a guide. I remind myself that the very darkest night of the soul in the Christian faith was when Jesus died. He stared death in the face. And beat it once and for all. This is truly the cornerstone of what I believe, what my parents believed: because He died, we don’t have to be afraid of death- it’s power is broken. Death isn’t the final destination. I feel a little better.

The sting of finality is a bit lessened, but the waiting still unfolds before me. Life feels long, and I feel young to carry what I carry. I wonder to myself what life event will cause my pain to lessen. Will counseling and care help to temper the ache? Perhaps holding my newborn baby in a few months and the gift of new life will cause my heart to live again. Maybe, just maybe, after the first full year following Mom and Dad’s death I won’t be agonized by all the special calendar dates…birthdays, anniversaries, holidays… Sigh. Probably not. It takes longer than a year I’m sure.

I flip open a daily devotional: Henri Nouwen’s “The Inner Voice of Love”. My favorite entry is entitled “Love Deeply”…. I read his thoughts, “The more you have loved and allowed yourself to suffer because of your love, the more you will be able to let your heart grow wider and deeper. When your love is truly giving and receiving, those whom you love will not leave your heart even when they depart from you… Every time you experience the pain of…death…you can stand straight in your pain and let the soil on which you stand become richer and more able to give life to new seeds… Thus the pain…of death…can become fruitful. Yes, as you love deeply the ground of your heart will be broken more and more, but you will rejoice in the abundance of the fruit it will bear.”

Got it. Love is the reason for grief, but grief becomes fruitful when new love is born out of it. That’s the only thing I can do. Respond in love. Love my kids, love my husband, love my siblings. I can do that. Even though my heart is breaking, I will learn to love more deeply than I ever have before. This is my lifeblood. I must cope with love.

I put the book aside as two sets of eyes prod me from behind the pages. “Mom, will you snuggle me and hold me like a baby?” Yes, Theo. Yes, Violet. I pull them up on to my lap and stroke their little blonde heads and smell their sweet fragranced hair and my heart is a little bit healed by love.


  1. I'm so glad you have your cousins and their words of encouragement. Praying for you neighbor and challenged to love deeper and harder. To allow grief to become fruitful when I love out of it. Thank you. Love you big neighbor.

  2. Thank you for sharing your heart. I am encouraged & challenged to love more. I am praying for you.

  3. I think about you everyday...I remember when you were born and the sweet ache of love your parents knew. It enveloped us all...which is why I think of you daily,of all of you and miss them so greatly even when they've been gone from my daily life for so long.

  4. These words are so breathtaking, Emily. They brought me to tears. Your sharing as you process these hard days is more of a gift to people than maybe even you know. Your writing and vulnerability is a powerful form of the love and hope you talk about here- each word echoing and etching itself into the bones of all of us who get to read it. Your parents' remarkable brand of love etched themselves so powerfully into thousands of us, too. You (and Annie, and Turner, and Tyler) are living, breathing invitations into the same kind of love your parents were teaching so many of us.

    You are a gift. Your words are a gift. There really are not enough words to express how much I know your parents are and have always been and will always be proud of you- of all four of you.

    Thank you so much for sharing. Both the deep love and loss are palpable, and my deepest prayer is that the depths of the heartache you're feeling are signals of the abundant fruit life will bear for you and your whole family. <3

  5. Beautiful entry.
    Grieving never Truely goes away and I'm not certain it's really supposed to. The episodes of grief get farther apart and are more brief, but they still come coupled with tears of joy and love both.
    My father has been gone for 10 years, my younger brother 8, my nephew 6. The sticks that prod me with, "Hey, remember they're gone!" Quickly point me to the beautiful memories. Moments I probably cherish more now than if they were still here.
    It's a process and no one can tell you how you must navigate it. Lean into His spirit and let Him lead you through.
    So many people praying for you and your sibs. You are more of a blessing to the rest of us than you will ever know.

  6. Love this. It's going to be such an encouragement to others too someday, even today. Thank you for sharing. You are a gift and we don't know the why but Jesus says "I am good and I make all things new". Cling to His goodness.

  7. Lord Jesus, continue to comfort the Schenzel kids and other family as they grieve. Fill them with your unspeakable joy that only comes from you, even though we don't understand it in times like these. Give them courage to continue living and fulfilling the purposes you have set before them. May their parents legacy become a part of them that lives on in various ways Lord, with each of their own gifts. Thank you for them Lord, and thank you for the hope that brings us strength and resolve. In Jesus name, Amen. We love you guys and are continuing to lift you up.

  8. Thank you for sharing your heart with us. This is going to help me to Love more deeply. Love my husband and my family so I can do what God tells me to do. You are so amazing! God holds you close.

  9. Love you. Praying for you. I love your realness.... thank you.

  10. Hearts ache for you. Love hard. Love gently. Hug tightly. Laugh easily. Cry when you need to. Know that you are loved and cared about so dearly.