Still…

Son,

I know that it’s been over a year since you took your last breath. It’s been over a year since I heard your sweet cry. But, there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t miss you like crazy. I wish I could _________ (fill in the blank. Hold, show you off, embrace, etc.) one last time. You were ripped from our family much to soon.

I am doings better now. I’ve made peace with your passing. I’ve stopped focusing on how wrong it is for you or any baby to die. Instead, I am have been focusing on the joyful times with you.

Your sisters are doing well. I’m sure you’ve heard them saying hi to you as we pass La Vista. Lily called you a butthole, last time we drove by. Then, brother-son-butthole, which I found funny and sad because I’m sure that you would have had the same humor as the rest of us. Aly still draws pictures of you as our guardian angel.

Your mother is doing better. She has had a rough go of it. Zoe, has a strong heartbeat. Remember to visit us in our dreams.

I hope that in Heaven you get to eat all the ice cream you want and play on all of the awesome playground rides. Say hello to all the family and Jesus.

Love forever,
Dad

20140429-164716.jpg

Joy = God

Overcoming struggles in life is part of our journey. We all have or will have struggles in our lives. No one, and I mean on one goes through life without some sort of pain and frustration. Several people struggle with money, drugs, family, friends, or time. Several others struggle with food, body image, or perfection. Others struggle, with death, rape, molestation or cancer. The list of struggles goes on and on. Several people give time as the answer to struggle. Yet, it is not time itself that has the power to heal you. Time did not heal me. I am still very much in pain. However, it grown into a manageable pain. I have found a sense of peace in facing my son’s death.

I have not hid my feelings or emotions. Instead, I found a release by writing down how I felt in this Blog and on Facebook. I wrote about how I yelled at God. I wrote about my triumphs, pain, an stumbles.

I have consoled and been consoled. I have thanked God for the 3 weeks we did have with our son. I have asked why my family? I have gone to therapy after trying to manage the pain on my own.

We all need to learn how to overcome our problems with basic strategies that will allow some of the excess baggage to fall away. It happens over time, making it seem like time heals all wounds. Yet it is not time, but God, that transforms and heals you.

happiness comes from giving your pain to God and trusting that he has a better understanding of the bigger picture in life. He will show you the path to take. It probably will be difficult, however the reward is peace.

This week, the pastor at my church gave some great advice.

To end suffering, grab on to meaning. Ask, “what does this mean?” Your suffering will greatly diminish when you find meaning because the pain transforms into sacrifice. You become free!

Change your mindset. Don’t think whether suffering will happen to you, instead think “I know how to deal with it when it does happen to me.”

Everyone goes through difficult seasons in their lives. God has given us the ability to choose our attitudes. Instead of becoming overwhelmed by the struggle, give it to God, lead your soul and your emotions toward God. He literally has the answers we seek.

Pastor Ed said that problems test your soul. God is pushing and testing us so that we may grow into the people we were meant to be. God wants us to realize our full potential! The goal is to turn your struggle into personal growth.

Joy = God

God is interested in our happiness. Find joy during the time you are on Earth. Our happiness cannot be intertwined with our circumstances. Rejoice and love God. Do not forget him during the good times.

Do not compare your pain to anyone else’s pain.

God doesn’t want us to fail but instead to persevere. Choose to tell everyone that you are a survivor! Empathy for others comes by acceptance in people’s struggles.

My Little Pearls

20140428-162904.jpg

My daughters are so sweet and cute. Lately, Aly has been giving a fun fact, then saying “right dad?”

“Peter Pan never wants to grow up, right dad?”

It actually melts my heart. Lily wants to sing this baby bumblebee song everyday. But, she wants to be the bee. While I am singing she pretends to sting me. Ha ha 🙂

The Peace of Time

Some say time heals all wounds. This way of thinking gives a lot of credit to time. Although I love the idea of doing nothing and finding peace, it just never works out. Time does not heal all wounds. It takes hard work to move through and sometimes past the trials of life. I mean think about it, time did not fill in the little gorge of the Colorado river. In fact when nothing filled in that big hole in the ground, it got bigger and became a canyon; a really big canyon.

This entire week the idea of time has been swirling around in my head. Time is that one particular measurement that is always present in all of our lives. It controls almost every aspect of our existence. Time is a funny thing in that many of us feel that there are not enough hours in the day, and at the same time we feel that we have plenty more years to live out our hopes and dreams. We put so much faith in the idea that we have all the time in the world. We put our wants and interests on hold for work, for errands, and for so many other priorities, all because we rationally assume that time is on our side.

Time keeps us on track everyday. Our bodies become used to an appropriate time to wake up. We train ourselves to follow a 9-5 schedule with lunch at noon, some sort of pick me up around 3, and dinner around 6. We tell ourselves it is time to play, time to drive, and time to sleep. As an act of defiance some people make it a priority to be late on purpose so that they may feel more important and in control of time.

Time is treated like a God. We try to understand it with clocks, calendars and even where the Sun is in the sky. We live on schedules and deadlines. We integrate time into our sports like races, football, hockey, and soccer. Think about all the timeouts at the end of basketball. Geez, talk about attempting to control time.

My son Leo helped me to see that time is just a byproduct of living in society. It is important to know time so that we may coordinate our encounters with each other. However, in Leo’s death, I have come to see that at the end of it all, people don’t remember their life for the number of times they were punctual. People remember experiences. People remember how they were affected by others.

My life has become something so odd over this past year. I just can’t quite figure out what to do with it. Time is still important for work and schedules, but I am finding that it has far less hold on me than it used too. God has set me free in so many ways.

I have learned first hand that most of us try to console each other with time. Some say time heals all wounds. It’s seen as the all-purpose emotional band-aid to every problem in life. What I think most people are trying to say is that if we go through the emotions of grief and overcome the sad season in our life, there should be a time that is far less sad, like a roller coaster or sand dunes.

Personally, my entire life I have felt like I was living in waves of sad calm and turbulent happiness. I have always lived my life in these waves. I don’t know if it’s a learned behavior or if it’s just how God programmed me to be. I have ups and downs. Good days and bad days. I thought that this was a major problem for only me, however I am finding that Many of us experience similar feelings of struggle.

Many of us stress and worry about things that we cannot change. We obsess about a future that has not happened. We don’t thank God for the blessings we do have, we tend to focus on what we don’t have.

Finding peace is the ultimate goal when it comes to sadness and pain. Some things just don’t go away, however, we can choose how we react to them. We can choose what we learn from these experiences. The power of finding our peace in the struggle.

I’d like to write more, but I have ran out of time.

20140427-223836.jpg

Roller Coaster of a Weekend

This weekend was Good Friday, Leo’s Funeral Anniversary, and Easter.

What an amazing weekend of big roller coaster ride emotions. I am thankful for the support we have received, but I am also sad about the loss my family has experienced.

It feels like we experienced a magnitude 10.0 earthquake and the tremors are still shaking things up one year later. Saturday we observed the funeral anniversary of our son, Leo. As I think back to that day I can still remember walking into the Humphrey Del Angel Mortuary in Chula Vista. I remember the low somber music filling the air. I remember how the light bounced off the floor from the sunlight coming in through the stained glass window, making the image of a crane. I remember seeing the little pine casket on the small table from across the room as I first walked in. We hadn’t seen our son’s physical body for a week. I can still feel the impatience and uneasiness as I walked down the center aisle. I felt like my nerves would get the best of me and that I would be sick. I wanted to see Leo, but I also didn’t.

I remember thinking, I hope he looks comfortable.

Last time we saw him was in the hospital with tubes and wires attached to his body and coming out of his mouth. I peered over the casket edge with Angela. We weren’t sure if we would recognize him. Do we want to see this?

There he was, asleep. He looked comfortable and fake, like a doll. I touched his cheek, I didn’t expect it to be so stiff. Angela and I broke down. No one else was there. We had a chance to have our moment alone with our son. We grieved. We asked why? We prayed.

It’s odd, because we went to the mortuary early to set up a…well, a remembrance party in honor of our son. It felt like we were throwing his first birthday party or something. We had brought baby toys, music, and a DVD of pictures.

I felt numb. I guess I felt the way your mouth feels after leaving the dentist, but all over.

Close family were invited to came to Leo’s open casket viewing. It felt strange because we wanted people to just sit with us but you could feel the uneasiness in the room. They were all very sweet and caring, however I guess people usually have shorter funerals? I don’t know because I had never had to set one up before this.

We told my mom that she could lift the casket one last time. She ended up picking it up and rocking Leo in her arms like you would any baby in a car seat . We all ended up holding Leo’s casket. We all rocked him back and forth one last time.

Then, Pastor Bill Yasino said a prayer and everyone watched as my dad and I put the lid over my baby boy and screwed down the edges. It felt right to use drywall screws and a screw gun(that’s kind of the Riggs way).

In the end, Angela and I walked our sweet little Leo to the mortuary car. I remember picking up our little son’s casket and holding him in my arms one last time as we drove to the cemetery. I sang him my favorite sweet lullabies.

You are my sunshine
My only sunshine
You make me happy
When skies are grey
You’ll never know dear
How much I love you
Please don’t take
My sunshine away

The other night dear
As I lay sleeping
I thought I held you
In my arms
When I awoke dear
I was mistaken
So I held my head
And I cried

I miss that little guy.

This week I’ve reflected on the pain this event brought to our lives. It also made me think of what other parents go through when their son or daughter passes and they have to bury them. Mary saw her son die in pain on a cross. She was there when he was laid in a tomb. I wonder if she felt her hopes and dreams for her child’s future slip away. He was supposed to be the king, the hero?

Happy Easter

Tonight I came to the realization that over the past three or so years I have been transformed. God has used the right people and major life altering experiences to change me forever.

Now, I see that we are all made for a specific purpose. When we choose a self righteous path it becomes a self destructive path because it is not God’s path for us.

At Journey Community Church tonight, God set me free through Pastor Ed’s message. “Self fixing is a nonstarter.” What do you mean Ed? In the eyes of the Lord “You can defend yourself or receive grace.” Really? Uh???

(Lightbulb over head)

Oh, I get it! If I stop trying to forge my own path and instead follow God’s path for me, I will be changed to better fit the purpose God made me for.

Years ago, heck months ago, I didn’t expect to express myself so openly and in such a transparent way. I now have a Blog, I share my music and art with others, I even have started to genuinely care for others that I would never have given a second chance.

I have learned that when you are good with what you are, God will transform who you are!!! I realize God is doing this with everyone around me and that none of us need to try to fix those around us. God has a plan and it is the right one.

I am pretty sure that I am on the correct path to finding peace because I know that God is cool with who I am and he is working on me to change me from the core all the way out.

I realize tonight that I have hope again.

Jesus is my king and my savior.

Thank you Lord!!!

A Messy Conclusion Part Five

As I come to the end of my reflection of this past year, I am pointed toward the idea of peace within. My family has only gotten to this point because of our faith in God. I am reminded of Romans 15:13 from the Bible, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” The messiness of life has often blocked my path to peace. A long mistrust in God had stolen my joy. I am thankful that even when I turned my back on God, as I tried it rationalize the purpose for the sadness and heartache of this world, the Lord is and always has been with me.

These words have blanketed a thick layer of reassurance over me this past week. “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4: 6-7. My son is gone. He has gone back to Heaven with the angels. I accept that. While I still sit with certain sad images and empty feelings everyday, there is a certain sense of tranquility in knowing that I will be reunited with my little son again one day. I am thankful for that. I’m not trying to find my happy place. My hope in the Holy Spirit is not one of moving on but in finding peace. Time cannot heal this wound, but Jesus will show me the path to peace.

So, as I look forward to new beginnings, I know that I am far from perfect. I still suffer from anxiety and depression. I am one sloppy, messy soul, just trying my best to do what I feel is right for my family and for myself. God has put so many wonderful people in my immediate surroundings. They have all helped me gather the pieces and pick me up when I stumbled.

I am changed forever.
There is no going back.
I have lost my innocence.
I have seen a nightmare unfold before my very eyes.
I am transformed from weak minded to strong.
The peace I long for is found in God.

Baby Leo you are always in my heart. Baby Zoe, I can’t wait to meet you in September. Angela, Alyssa, and Lily, we are all in for one wild ride. As a family, we will find peace. To my mom and dad, we are blessed to have you in our lives. I love you all.

To everyone, family, friends, and new friends, we are eternally grateful to you for your words, prayers, and gifts. You really don’t know what you have meant to us.

To those who are sad, angry, and lost. There’s a path waiting for you. It isn’t an easy path, but very fulfilling. I hope and pray God shows his love to you, for it is like nothing you have ever experienced.

We do not know what waits just beyond, but it has to be beautiful because we will be reunited again someday.

You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. Isaiah 55:12

For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. If you serve Christ with this attitude, you will please God. And other people will approve of you, too. So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up. Romans 14:17-19

A Messy Conclusion Part Four

Embracing the mess.

It’s been a year and a few days since my son passed away. It’s been a year and a few days since I lost my innocence. I can no longer live a life where I try to be perfect. It’s just not possible. I have to look forward to the future, watching my other children grow up. The negative thoughts that I once used to make myself feel important have been let go.

I just spoke with a family member who I rarely ever see. She decided to tell me everything wrong with her and her families life. Instantly, my reaction was to have some less than positive thoughts about why I didn’t want to hear it. I was so close to comparing her problems to my problems. In my heart I felt like this person needed to be reminded just how good their life actually is. But how would that help her. Maybe she was venting? Maybe she doesn’t know how to be positive? I was reminded of the power of positive thinking.

Life is messy and I really do believe God wants us to be real and honest. However, I also see that God wants us to find the lesson in every struggle. How do I absorb the bumps and potholes in my road of life?

Should I complain?

Should I get mad, angry, or vengeful?

Should I pretend the struggles and heartbreak don’t affect me?

Should I look for someone else and try to belittle them to make myself feel better?

Should I spin everything and play the victim?

Should I cut the person who hurt me out of my life?

Should I compare others pain to my own?

I know that I have reacted very poorly to difficult situations in the past. As a matter of fact, I have reacted in all the ways above. Right, wrong, or indifferent, these reactions helped me get through some sticky situations. It has been messy at times.

Amazingly, when Leo first passed away, I don’t feel like I did any of these things. I was so filled with God’s love, I didn’t even fully register how big of a pit we would eventually fall into. I was shielded from the hate and the anger.

One thought that kept me going was that my son was born with the chord wrapped around his neck 3 times. He was gray. I thought we had lost him at that moment. When the doctor unwrapped the chord and he started breathing it was a huge relief. We were given 26 extra days with our son. 26 days to get to know him and love him. I am thankful to God for that. I acknowledge the suckiness of the situation, but I found something positive in the messiness.

Eventually, after my son’s passing, I saw many people around me fall apart for several different reasons. They reacted in very hostile ways to the tragedy of my son’s death and two months later to the passing of my ailing father-in-law. It’s been hard to forgive these other people. Yet, I expected others to forgive me when I finally fell apart? I see how unfair that is.

A year later, I can see how far I have come. I also realize that God showed me grace after several years of not believing. I need to show grace to people for not being perfect. Forgiveness is a huge step in the right direction. I have experienced the worst pain and came back from it. I feel glad that I actually found strength in my son’s passing.

Evil tries to tear us down. Evil sends insecurity, pain, and jealousy! I’m stronger and better prepared for what evil can throw at me. I got Jesus on my side. So evil, go hop in a pig and jump off a cliff into the sea (bible joke).

A Messy Conclusion Part Three

As baby Lily continued to grow and blossom, I was secretly reading the Bible. My friends and family could not see me being a hypocrite. I had outright denounced religion as a whole. Yet, something or someone was telling me to keep going. “This is not part of my life plan! I guess this will at least give my argument against religion more muscle.”

Every night as I put the girls to bed I would read privately on my cell phone. I was in awe of the stories of battling with ones own faith. “Wait, this is hitting a little too close to home.” People who ended up converting after publicly rejecting God, like Saul/Paul. Running away from God’s plan, Jonah. I couldn’t help but feel like I had been rejecting the wrong part of spirituality. I wasn’t mad at God, I was mad at fake religious people who acted like life wasn’t messy because they believed in God. I started to see that that isn’t what God wanted either. God is looking to interact with the real us.

My transition into becoming a Jesus follower was a rocky road. As I had assumed, people were angry that I had changed. Some serious issues floated to the surface, but I managed to push through and rectify most relationships. I now knew that God had my back. He was walking with me and was in the middle of remolding me.

I was still feeling really anxious about many silly things I had done while partying. I felt like I just wasn’t worthy of people’s or God’s time. I prayed a lot and read some great books that put things into perspective. I was trying to fix myself my whole life. It wasn’t working. My mess had just become manageable with eating, drinking, and anxiety driven OCD tendencies. I felt that God and maybe even this Jesus guy was leading me to look into these issues seriously.

I wanted to be a better dad to my little girls and a better husband to my wife. They deserved the best of me and weren’t getting it. My old life plan wasn’t working. I went to the Doctor and after several tests, I was diagnosed with Anxiety/Depression. I was given some medicine and told that I needed to see a therapist. This truly transformed my ability to deal with things. I dove head first into the messy pool that was my life. I made some significant changes and I was feeling like for the first time since high school, I could care about myself again. God had put me on a wonderful path.

In mid 2012, Angela came to me and said she might be pregnant. I was more excited than ever. This was an unplanned gift from God! I was beginning to kind of put my trust in Jesus. Angela was scared, but I knew we could do it.

At week 20, we went to the 4-D ultrasound with family again. This time I was praying “Lord, please let this one be a boy.”

“It’s a boy!!!” Hallelujah! Finally, our family was complete. Our messy lives were now going to be cleaned up. I started working out, we were doing well with everything. I got baptized. Life was good. We were living on cloud 9.

Then on March 16, 2013, Baby Leo was born. The chord was wrapped around his neck 3 times. “Lord, please don’t take away my boy.” They unwrapped the chord and he regained his breath. We were in the clear, right? “A little scare there God. Losing our son is not part of the plan.”

The funny thing is we had 26 of the most magical days ever! Leo was a bright star. Then, on April 11, 2013, our little boy passed away in his sleep. Life just got a whole lot messier.

I think I’m going to be sick.

A Messy Conclusion Part Two

So in 2009, the plan was to have 2 kids. A boy, than a girl. Maybe 3 if we felt like pushing the envelope a little. Angela is a few months pregnant when we went in for the 4-D Ultrasound. We were excited to find out the gender of the baby… a girl.

Wait, it was supposed to be a boy?

This was not part of the plan. “Universe, you are kinda messing up our plan. It was supposed to be a boy first, then a girl. Come on Universe, get with the program.” I had a plan, but the Universe obviously was not responding to my good vibes.

Anyways, when Alyssa was born, a rush of feelings overcame me and I was actually brought to tears. I can clearly remember thinking “there has got to be a God, and it has to be a good God.” She was so tiny, so beautiful, so precious. I was more happy and scared than I’d ever been in my whole life. Wow! I’m actually ok with this.

Over the next year we were on top of the moon. We showed off our little Gerber baby wherever we went. We were happy, overbearing, 1st time parents. We made people wash their hands before they touched her, no sickness around our little baby girl. We were in control. We had read the books and felt as though we were experts on having a newborn baby. Everything she did was so perfect and original (to us). For the first year of Alyssa’s life everything seemed perfect. She had colic, but ultimately she just did cute little baby things.

After a year we decided Alyssa needed a friend, a little brother. So we went about trying for child number 2. When the positive result shown on the pregnancy test I felt really anxious.

“Universe, this had better be a boy.” When the time came for the 4-D ultrasound, we invited close family. We were ready to hear the news about our new son. Our plan was working out perfectly… Or was it?

“It’s a girl!!!” My heart just about sank into my stomach. I was shocked. I was mad. I was sad. I could only think, well, I guess we are gonna have to have a third. It took me a while to get excited about having another girl. I guess they can play dress up together or something?

This was also about the time I realized that I needed help with my outlook on life. I began attending a stress management class at Kaiser. We had a home, good jobs, a baby girl, and another on the way. So why am I so sad? Why have I seemed to develop OCD? Why do I eat and drink to much?

In short, I lived my life by other peoples standards. I was scared of not being perfect, so I sometimes failed on purpose. The idea was “if I’m going to fail, well then I’m going to fail on my own terms.” I was going to be in control of my own failures. Life was still not allowed to be messy on the surface.

Lily was born in June 2011. She was smaller than Alyssa and she had dark hair. I had just recently began to really look into reading the Bible. Earlier that year, some friends and I had gone to watch Spring Training in Arizona. I was prompted to actually read the book before I condemned Christianity.

Lily was so much calmer than Alyssa. I didn’t think there was enough room in my heart to love another child, but the heart works mysteriously. We were kinda happier and kinda more full of life with both girls around. But at the end of the day, we still had plans and a need for them to happen. I just wasn’t expecting quite so much perfection anymore.