Finding Joy Through My Tears

This blog is to share my journey with God through the heartache and pain of losing my son, Chandler. An outlet for me of sorts. Follow me on my road of grief to healing through the Lord.

To: Chandler’s Friends Along The Way

I have often asked myself the following questions:

What would I say if I could sit down and talk face to face with all of the important people that were in Chandler’s life? What would I truly say if I had their full attention? It has changed minute by minute for the past year.

Here is how I would start that conversation:

I wish that I could say that I don’t blame anyone. I wish I could say that anger and bitterness hasn’t claimed part of my heart. As hard as it may be for some of you to believe, it grieves my soul to my very core that I feel these things. I absolutely hate that those feelings are in my heart. I beg God to take these feelings from me. I ask God not to let this stay with me forever. I ask God to put a sincere, wholehearted desire in my heart to pray for each of you by name. I pray that I wouldn’t be so sad and to the point of jealous as I see each of you step out and live your life.

But, the truth. I feel all these things. The truth. I pray all of these things. Even though I have these feelings, as hard as it may be for you to understand, I sincerely hope and pray that you succeed.

I, also, would tell you that at the beginning point of my deepest grief, I just knew that it was going to be my job to “save” all of you. To walk down this road of grief together. To provide comfort. I really thought that I could just pick up where Chandler’s heart for you left off. Over the last year of his life, he spoke to me in great detail about all of you. He told me where you were at in your life and he had a plan for each of you to help you with the things you were struggling with. So, I thought, I have to finish what he started.

I came to the realization very quickly that my motives were not the same as Chandler’s. I wanted each of you to fill the void that had been left in my life when I lost Chandler. I placed an expectation on you that there was no way that you could fill. You couldn’t fill the void. The void still exists today and I truly believe it will be there the rest of my life. I had to realize that I would have to rely on the impact of Chandler’s life on each of you. The life he lived, his legacy, and the things that have happened and that are still happening after his death that have been tremendous blessings. Those things would have to be the driving forces in each of your lives. I had to learn that this was Chandler’s purpose and plight and it was not mine. You all had to learn at a very young age that we are not promised another second. And, I am sorry that you had to learn this so early in your lives. I would tell you now that you have to make each second count. We can’t afford to put off one second. We do not know how much time we have.

I would encourage you to chase after what’s good and right. To focus and act upon the things that will impact others in a positive way. To be the one in the room that is different. The one that others see as a shining light to those around them.

It reminds me of Paul’s words in Phillipians:

“Finally, brothers and sisters, fill your minds with beauty and truth. Meditate on whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is good, whatever is virtuous and praiseworthy. Keep to the Script. Whatever you learned, received, heard, and saw in me – Do it and the God of peace will walk with you.”

~Phillipians 4:8-9 – The Voice

I haven’t done a good job at thinking on these things since Chandler’s death. It’s hard for me to see the good in anything. I tend to see all the bad. All the mistakes. Even though Jesus, Himself warned us:

“I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be liberated, will go in and out, and will find pastures. The thief approaches with malicious intent, looking to steal, slaughter, and destroy; I came to give life with joy and abundance.”

John 10:9-10 – The Voice

I have read that verse over and over again in my walk with Christ. I knew when Chandler started having problems way before his death that this verse was true. He was after Chandler. He wanted to destroy him. He wanted to destroy you as well. I prayed for protection like I never had before for him. And, I prayed it over each of you as well.

But, even though I know this Scripture in Phillipians and I have been warned through the Scripture in John, I have had to come back and ask God:

How can there be beauty and truth in losing my son? Your friend?

How is that honorable? Right? Pure? Lovely? Good? Virtuous?

And, please tell me how in the world his death could be praiseworthy? How?

Then, I think of these verses:

“My intentions are not always yours, and I do not go about things as you do. My thoughts and My ways are above and beyond you, just as heaven is far from your reach here on earth.” ~ Isaiah 55:8-9 – The Voice

“So it is when I declare something, My Word will go out and not return to me empty, but it will do what I wanted; it will accomplish what I determined.” ~Isaiah 55:11, The Voice

Ok. So, ask yourselves, what has this tragedy accomplished in your life? Have you taken hold of Chandler’s life, legacy and thought of beauty and truth? Have you done the honorable thing? The right thing? Whatever is pure? Whatever is lovely? What is good? Virtuous? And, most importantly, are you allowing God to do the things He wants to do in your lives that result in knowing that he has done things for us that are praiseworthy? Are you stepping out in faith and obedience to His call upon your life?

I ask myself these very questions. And, sometimes, I like the answers and sometimes I do not. Sometimes, I am so off the mark that I just want to go back to bed and not get up again. So, that leads me back to the verse in Phillipians. What do we do?

“Keep to the Script.” Keep doing the things that God is calling you to do. The things that will honor Him and give Him all of the praise and glory.

And, finally, I would say to you. No, things were not always good. Yes, I have been unhappy with the decisions that you and Chandler made together. Yes, I would do it very differently if I had a second chance. Yes, I loved the way each of you had your own unique laughs. And, I loved the sounds it made when all those laughs came together.

And, I would say thank you for being a friend to Chandler. Thank you for providing a lot of his happiness here on this earth. Thank you for being a friend to him. And, I would tell you to look to God for everything in your life. He will not steer you wrong. These are the things I would say to all of you if I could sit down with you all face to face.

Blessings, Brandi

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Worn…

God allowed me to see how much Chandler had grown in the last year of his life. He still carried around a lot of problems that no one should have to. I am so thankful that he had went from someone that claimed to not “believe in a God that he could not see” to “I wish I had known him through all of my issues.”

About a month before Chandler passed away, he led worship at Greg’s Dad’s church. He sang two songs that I will never forget. He sang:

Mighty to Save by Hillsong

Moving Forward by Israel Houghton

We talked about how music impacted his heart. That playing and singing worship music made his heart come alive. He said one day you just know. You know that God is real and active in your life. He said that he knew now that God was for him and spared him of so many things. And, that was very true.

I will not lie. I waited until after our conversation and then I went in my bedroom and I praised God for a very long time. I prayed prayers of praise and thankfulness. I thanked God for His faithfulness. I danced a little. I sang a little. I got on my knees and I thanked God for hearing my prayers. There was a point that I was devastated by Chandler’s behavior the decisions that he continued to make. But now, we were getting somewhere. My heart was so full of joy. That seems so far away for me. Like an entire lifetime ago.

There are several conversations that Chandler and I had in the weeks before he passed away. In some strange way, I think he knew. I think he knew that he wouldn’t be here long. He was struggling with issues that he simply didn’t know what to do.

About three weeks before he passed away, he was at my Mom’s. He called me around 11:30 at night. We talked that night until about 2:30. Praise God for those moments. Praise God that I got to just sit and listen. My boy was changing. He wanted different things. He was growing up.

We talked about his excitement about getting his acceptance letter to Pellissippi to begin studying Culinary Arts. He wanted to be a chef. He talked about the summer and how he just wanted to have fun. The time of his life. He said that he knew that everything would change when college began.

His heart was also very heavy about some very tough decisions that he had made. Choices that he made that he knew would be best for him and his future. They were very, very hard for him. These decisions would hurt people that he loved. But, he knew they were right. He said, “Mom, I just don’t know how to do this without others getting hurt. I never intended anyone to get hurt.” That was who he was. He didn’t want to hurt anyone. I know in my heart that he struggled with this in the weeks to come. The situation seemed to continue to escalate. It was out of control.

I look back and I would give ANYTHING if I had just stepped in. I dismissed it as normal teenage behavior. It was not normal. It was abusive on every level. He was so beaten down. He was miserable.

The morning of Saturday, June 22nd, he called me. He called me every morning including the weekends early. He was always an early riser. We had plans that day. Our sweet Carlee was celebrating her 1 year birthday. He told me that morning that he was tired. And, that he just wanted to come home with us from the party. He said he needed to get away. He had been at my Mom’s for a while. He said he was worn. He asked that I tell the girls not to make any plans that he would be home and he just wanted to be with us a little while. That made my heart happy.

I can’t even remember the timeline of the things that happened after that conversation. But, one thing I do know. He would not have told me to tell the girls to stay home if he never planned to be here. He called me several times before the unthinkable happened. He called me while I was at Target. I could sense the agitation. I could sense he was angry. He felt like he wasn’t going to make it to Carlee’s party. We talked through it and he seemed calm and was in route to the party.

Twenty minutes later he shot himself. How do you go from being on your way to a birthday party to being behind a rec center with a fatal gunshot wound? He begged to be left alone. I have saw some text messages that were sent to ask others to help him get out of there. He was angry. He was upset. He was in a hopeless state. He felt he would never just be left alone. I saw the texts for myself on his phone. He discharged all the bullets from that gun, or so he thought. He was prepared to prove a point that day. This is what it had come to. Trying to prove a point with a gun to his head. And, then the accidental shot. And, within 45 minutes I was by his side.

I don’t know that I will ever get over not being there when he needed me the most. I don’t know if I will ever be able to let go of the thoughts:

Did he wonder where I was? Did he just want me? His Dad? His Nannie? Was he scared? Did he realize what had happened?

The EMT’s assured him the whole way to the hospital that day that we were on our way. We would be with him soon. They comforted him so they could try and keep him calm. I will never be able to thank them enough for that. They told him how much we loved him. The nurse at the hospital called Greg and I from Chandler’s phone. She assured me she was keeping him calm and reassuring him that we would be there. We were coming. To just hold on. He did.

I haven’t spoken these words to another person. I felt I had to talk to these people who took care of my son when I could not be there. Grateful is not even a strong enough word to explain how I feel about these people.

I have written as much as I can today. I am leaving you with the lyrics to a song that remind me of how he must have felt that day. Love and Blessings, Brandi

Worn – Tenth Avenue North

I am tired, I am worn. My heart is heavy. From the work it takes to keep on breathing. I’ve made mistakes. I’ve let my hope fail. My soul feels crushed by the weight of this world. And, I know that you can give me rest. So, I cry out with all I have left.

Let me see redemption win. Let me know the struggle ends. That you can mend a heart that’s frail and torn. I want to know a song can rise from the ashes of a broken life.  And, all that’s dead inside can be reborn. Cause I’m worn.

I know I need to lift my eyes up. But, I’m too weak, life just won’t let up. And, I know that you can give me rest. So, I cry out with all that I have left.

Let me see redemption win. Let me know the struggle ends. That you can mend a heart that is frail and torn. I want to know a song can rise from the ashes of a broken life. And, all that’s dead inside can be reborn. Because I’m worn.

My prayers are wearing thin. Yeah, I am worn, even before the day begins.  I am worn, I have lost my will to fight. I’m worn, so heaven and flood my eyes.

I’m worn.

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When There Is Pain In The Offering…

August 21, 1995 my life changed forever. At 7:04am I laid eyes on the most beautiful baby boy that I have ever seen. There was a lot of busyness going on all around me. I just wanted to get him into my arms. I had waited for 39 weeks to see this baby.

I will never forget when all the busyness stopped and it was just him and me together at last. I stared at him for what seemed like hours. He was perfect. He had a head full of beautiful black hair. He weighed in at 7 pounds 1 ounce and was 19 inches long. I remember unfolding all of the blankets and counting his little fingers and toes. Checked him all over. Perfect.

I began praying and thanking God for this gift. I remember tear drops of pure, unselfish, indescribable love dropping on his little leg. I did not deserve him. But, yet, God gave him to me anyway.

June 22, 2013 once again changed my life forever. At 4:10pm I said goodbye to the most beautiful boy that I have ever seen. Again, there was a lot of busyness going on all around me. I just wanted to get him into my arms.

For a brief time the busyness stopped. It was just me and him together at last. I stared at him for what seemed like hours. He was perfect. I remember checking everything again to make sure he was ok and he was comfortable.

I began praying and thanking God for this gift. For these 17 years that I had with Chandler. I remember tear drops of pure, indescribable love and grief all at the same time. I remember fixing his blankets, holding his hand and I remember the tear drops fell on his hand this time.

I remember thinking about a song that has been a favorite of mine and Chandler’s. This was one of the first songs that he learned to play on his guitar. I heard the words over in my head:

When the darkness closes in Lord, still I will say, blessed be your name, blessed be your name. Blessed be your name on the road marked with suffering. Though there is pain in the offering, blessed be your name. You give and take away, you give and take away. My heart will choose to say Lord, blessed be your name.”

There was tremendous pain in this offering. But, my heart had to choose to say, blessed be your name. There is no other way.

I am ready to tell his story even though there is pain in this offering that I give to you. It makes me ache for him. But, God wants his story to be told.

I wanted to start from the beginning but I had to address the end as well.

Chandler was such a good boy. He was the delight in our lives. He was the first grandchild on my side as well as Greg’s. Spoiled rotten. We couldn’t help ourselves. He was a kind, sweet, and giving child. You have no idea how many times I picked him up from school when he was in elementary school with no coat. When I would ask him where his coat was, he would say that someone in his class didn’t have a coat. He gave his to the child because he had more coats at home. That giving spirit stayed with him until the very end. His last gift was to 5 special people who received his organs so that they may live.

Along the way, we saw that Chandler was veering off on a path that we were not happy with. A path that brought Greg and I to our knees. It began his sophomore year.

I have such a heart for parents that are struggling with the decisions that their children are making that are destroying them. I have a heart for the children that are making these decisions.

In sharing my story, Chandler’s story, I hope and pray that it gives parents hope. That it gives them an idea of what road to take to intervene. To go after that child and fight with everything in you to help them even when he/she cannot help themselves.

I also hope that Chandler’s story will help a teen/young adult who is struggling. You know the decisions you are making are wrong. You struggle with making the same mistakes over and over again even though you know you are headed the wrong way. You feel like the last thing you could do is go to your parents and tell them the truth. I am telling you to run to them. Right now. There is absolutely no one that loves you more than they do. They are for you. They love you more than a friend, girlfriend, boyfriend could ever love you. They would lay down and die to know that you are ok.

You haven’t gone too far. That is a lie the enemy will attack you with every day. You will never go too far for God to come and rescue you. Come home. You will be safe there.

Much love, Brandi

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The Beginning of Truth…. Chandler’s Story

“We do not want you to be uninformed about the hardships we suffered. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But, this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Than many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.”

~2 Corinthians 1:8-11

I have loved these verses this past year. I have etched them in my heart. Greg, the girls and I have not wanted in any way to keep those around us uninformed. We have been astounded at the way that everyone around us has rallied behind us. We stand amazed at the love that has been poured out on our family. Prayers, cards, dinners, money, flowers, messages, phone calls. I could go on and on. We still receive all of these things today. Precious. We could not have made it without you. There is no way.

This verse explains how we have felt the last year. Great pressure, far beyond the ability to endure, and yes, I have even despaired of life. There have been times that we felt like we could not get up and go on. And, yes. I have been rescued. In fact, I am rescued every, single day. I have had to learn to rely on God. I have had to set my hope in Him. And, you have played a significant role in this for us. Your prayers. They have protected us. The prayers have led us to put our trust in God and His ways. Not our own.

Today, is June 1st. This is the beginning of the month that we lost Chandler exactly a year ago. The Lord has placed it on my heart to begin sharing the entire story of where we have been, what we have been through, and where we are right now. He is also calling me to inform you of the truth. The truth of exactly where we are. The truth about what happened to our son. Please know that our story isn’t finished. There is so much to tell. But, it isn’t finished. We are still living out our story. I have no idea what that looks like. But, God does. So, again, I put my hope in Him.

I ask that you pray for me as I set out on this journey. I ask that you pray that my story is God honoring. Above all else, it must honor God. The words have to come from Him, not me. Otherwise, I don’t want to have anything to do with it. There are parts of this story that are hard to tell. I don’t want to dishonor my son or anyone else. But, God has reminded me, that the truth will set me free. Not my truth or what I think it is. But, God’s truth.

My biggest prayer is that God will speak and this will help someone in some way. That, someone will see this and know that what they are doing at this point in their life, the relationship they are in, the path they are choosing is wrong. It is destroying you. It is causing you a lot of pain and misery. And, most of all, I pray that someone sees this that is at the end of their rope. They feel like they cannot hold on anymore. They do not see a way out. They feel like they will never be free.

You can be FREE. Please, hear that today. You can be free through Christ. No matter how tight the chains are, no matter how helpless you feel. I know that some of you are sitting here today feeling like there is no way out for you. There is a way out.

Galations 5:1 tells us, “Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you,” ~The Message

So, please take heart today. There is more to you than the bondage that is holding you down. You can break the chains and break free from this relationship, the drug addiction, the alcohol addiction, the past…. There is freedom waiting for you through Jesus Christ.

What happened to Chandler was not intentional but it was a cry for help. The bondage was so deep that he didn’t know what to do. It does not have to end this way for you. I imagine that he felt completely helpless that day. He felt he had nowhere to turn and no way to break free. I do not ever want to see another person suffer like this. I do not want to see another set of parents experience the grief that Greg and I have.

I am going to tell you Chandler’s story. My story. Our family’s story. It is not a story that is easy to tell. But, it is time. I have prayed that God would bring healing not only to myself and my family but to others as well. The price we have paid is too high for God not to bring blessings out of Chandler’s life.

So, if you are that person today who is stuck in something that you feel is way over your head and you cannot get out of. Hold on! You can be free.

Reach out to your Pastor, a godly friend, a counselor. Reach out and don’t keep it hidden any longer. The truth shall set you free.

I will continue my story throughout this month. Blessings to you. Until then, Brandi

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Finding Joy Through My Tears

This blog is to share my journey with God through the heartache and pain of losing my son, Chandler. An outlet for me of sorts. Follow me on my road of grief to healing through the Lord.