Life After Loss: We're Here to Help (Yes, Even the Politicians)

Saturday, we went walking through one of my favorite Louisville landmarks, Cave Hill Cemetery. I sought a grave out, as I had driven past it months ago. I remembered it being a grave that was a sculpture of Jesus with his arms wide open, with children running to him. Saturday, we walked and walked around the cemetery until I found it again. I was shocked to see who’s grave it was. It was Governor Matt Bevin's (Kentucky) child’s grave. Brittiney died in a car wreck in 2003 at the age of 17. I had no idea he lost a child. Many people have a lot of bad things to say about Governor Bevin right now. Everyone is entitled to their opinion when it comes to politics. I may not agree with some of the decisions he has made (I am a former teacher and will always be in full support of all teachers), but I still have empathy for him. He went through a terrible loss and still grieves his daughter.

My husband said “She’s been dead for a while now though.” I said “It doesn’t matter. The sadness of losing a child never really goes away. Just talk to my mom about that.” My parents only had three months with their child, Jennefer Rose Pearce, before losing her in 1978 and I know they still grieve her. My mom will talk about her with me and it seems that time heals, but you never “get over” a death. It stays with you forever.

I believe in this: when people don’t fully grieve a loss in their life, it can ultimately lead to greater sadness and impair decisions. It steers people away from listening to their heart. What we all really should try to do when someone dies, is understand that they are, in fact, with us in spirit and try to help us on our humanly journey. We just have to see past the death to feel their presence once again. When we do that, we open our hearts and minds in so many ways and goodness flows in. When the goodness flows in, we start listening to our hearts again, feel empathy for others and make good decisions once again. I wonder if Governor Bevin had great intentions when he sought his position, but then started listening to what others were telling him instead of his heart. I wonder if he has allowed others to steer him away from what he knows is right. I am not excusing him, as he is an adult who makes his own decisions, but I just wonder.

While I was looking at the grave, I could feel so much pain from the loss of Brittiney, though I never met her. I felt empathetic as I read the journal entry they had put upon her grave. Brittiney “felt the feels” as I do. Some of the journal entry that stood out to me: “Please fill me with your wisdom, that I won’t just watch others suffer, but that I’ll be able to say what they need to hear. As a new week approaches, my dangerous prayer is that you’ll place broken hearted people in my path and fill me with You so that I can let Your love heal their pain.” I know that Brittiney and I are on the same path. Though she may not be with us physically now, I only hope I can carry on her mission during my life.

Here’s what needs to be said. When someone dies, don’t allow a piece of you to die with them. It may feel that way in the beginning, but you MUST push past it. Feel sad and then move on. Use your pain and loss as motivation to KEEP GOING and accomplish what your heart tells you to.

I lost my Nani (my maternal grandmother), who was like a mother to me, in 2006. While she was 83 and I felt her death coming, it still hurt more than anything I had ever felt before. I was her caretaker, yet in my second year of full-time teaching, and only about 26 years old. She started to get to the point where we were discussing her death arrangements, was falling often (we hired a nurse assistant to help as she wouldn’t come live with us), and I prayed daily for her. The night before she died, I spoke to her on the phone. We talked about how exciting my next day was going to be. HGTV was coming to my house to film me for a show. Before we hung up, we said “I love you”, something that we didn’t say to each other very often.

The next day, HGTV came to my house and filmed me, yet the entire day, I knew something was wrong. My husband and father-in-law knew she passed away. My husband had to leave at some point to help my sister with the coroner. I wanted to ask the entire day about whether she died or not, but I pushed on without asking, knowing my Nani would have wanted me to finish the filming. After the cameras left, I asked the hardest question and my husband told me. I remember falling to the ground in a fit of cries and having to be picked up by my husband. After crying for a while, I felt numb. I did feel like a piece of me died with her. But it didn’t.

Later that same week, I had a wedding cake to create for a very special client; someone who counted on me for their big day. I could have cancelled it, but I didn’t. I pushed past the pain and threw myself into my art, something that saved me time and time again. As I made the cake, I remember feeling like my Nani was with me, helping me every step of the way. The cake required me doing a new technique, fondant draping, and I hadn’t had time to practice. The practice wasn’t required, as I nailed it. Thank you to the spirit of my Nani for that. I even went to the wedding, something that many sad people would try to avoid. I danced, I was there for others that day, and probably cried again when I got home.

I cried numerous times, yet still picked myself up and continued on with life. With the help of my husband and father-in-law, I cleared out her house and sold it. I sold my house. I moved into a new house. I started teaching at a new school. I wrote, I traveled, I lived my life. A piece of me didn’t die with my Nani’s death. Instead, I gained a cheerleader in the spirit world who I feel cheering me on every day. She always told me I wouldn’t be happy just being an art teacher in a classroom. I remember asking her once “Then what should I do if I don’t teach art?” and she didn’t have an answer. Now, I believe she is helping me find out all of the good things I am capable of.

I have used her guidance, along with God, my angels and my spirit team, for a long while now. They are all my cheerleaders, sending guidance to my heart. Something that I have learned through loss and pain: Listen to your heart. It never steers you wrong. You may have others telling you that you are crazy and that the pain is guiding you to do crazy things, but they are not correct. Tune out the others and tune into you.

As far as Governor Bevin, I hope he listens to his heart. I hope he thinks of Brittiney and all the wonderful things her life brought to the earth. I hope he tunes into his heart, into Brittiney’s life and mission and thinks of all the good he could do with his position. Not that we would all agree with his decisions, because we are human and will never agree with everything everyone does, but maybe, perhaps, sneaking a bill inside of another bill to get it to pass will Never. Happen. Again.  

 Art by Carolyn J. Braden: We're Here

Art by Carolyn J. Braden: We're Here

 Brittiney Bevin's Memorial: Cave Hill Cemetery, Louisville, KY

Brittiney Bevin's Memorial: Cave Hill Cemetery, Louisville, KY