Saturday, November 8, 2008

Only One

It has been over 10 months since Midi and Nathan died. During that time, I think I've felt the sting of not having Nathan more frequently than the sting of not having Midi. This has more to do with the fact that as I continue to be Lucas' father, I miss Nathan so much. I miss being his dad, too. I experience this particular kind of bittersweetness of life everyday, many times a day. In a few weeks, I am going to have to face this in the most intense way. I anticipate that the days when Lucas turns five on December 1st (and Nathan does not) and when we celebrate on December 6th will be the hardest, most bittersweet days. Pray for me, Midi's parents, and my parents. I don't know how we are going to make it through those days.

But lately, I've really been missing Midi and my mourning has focused on her. It would have been her 35th birthday this past October 29th. There was only one Midi. There was only one who I loved for all of those years. There was only one whose love I desired and pursued. There was only one who I wanted to marry, be family with, raise children with. There was only one who I dreamed of living with the rest of my life, going on walks with until the day when one of us couldn't walk anymore. There was only one whose walk with God I cared about more than my own, who I wanted to see grow and flourish, who I wanted to see bless others with her gifts. There was only one Midi.

There are so many wonderful qualities that Midi had. What has come into focus for me the past couple of weeks though is what a strong woman she was. But not strong in the traditional or cultural sense. She was strong because she was secure. She never felt the need to convince others that she was right and they were wrong. Our culture has a way of telling women that they need to be everything and do everything. They need to be pure. If not, then they are deemed a "slut", whereas a man is deemed a "player". They need to be attractive by hollywood standards. They need to be independent, strong, family-first, successful, take care of their flawed husband. So much pressure. And that pressure causes so many problems if a woman doesn't know who she is. Midi knew who she was.

She was a safe place for everyone. There was nothing about a person that could keep her from loving them. She wouldn't allow any barrier to block someone out of her life. They could be black/white/brown/yellow, rich/poor, gay/straight, truthful/deceitful, Christian/non-Christian, liberal/conservative, male/female, old/young, smart/dumb, careful/reckless, broken/healed. And everyone knew that about her. She definitely sought to understand more than to be understood.

Back when Midi and I got together (2000), if you had asked those who knew us both (mostly from our UCLA days) about who was the more accomplished spiritual leader or whose faith was stronger, I think 10 out of 10 would have said Midi. I would have been one of those 10, for sure! But there was something about me that Midi saw that I'm not sure others did. And I think that this is more a reflection of who she was than who I was. She trusted me. From day one, she trusted me. Or maybe more accurately, she trusted God. Though I was a work in progress (still am...we all are) she saw the finished picture - and she liked it. She was able to do so, I think, because she was so secure. She was secure as child of God. But she was also secure as a woman. She was secure enough to put herself in the vulnerable position of trusting me to lead us and to do good for her. She didn't have a problem receiving my love. She never felt the need to fight for herself with me. She never felt that she would lose herself with me. She trusted that I heard her, listened to her, valued her, and desired only good for her. And so she was able to jump in with both feet and swim in my love for her.

Not everyone can do this.

But she also knew her value to me. She knew that a guy who saw the world in black and white could use the perspective of one who was comfortable in the grays. She knew that a guy who leaned so heavily towards the truth/justice side of the "Truth/Justice to Love/Grace" scale could really benefit from one who embraced the love/grace side. She knew that our children would receive the best of both worlds from us, partnering together. She knew that by trusting me and trusting that my love for her was unconditional and unbreakable, she was empowering me all the more to love her and lead our family. She knew that she was good for me, and I for her.

I was blessed to be married to Midi for over 6.5 years. We did not have a perfect marriage, but ours was a healthy marriage, never in jeopardy for a second. I realize that one of the enduring gifts that God has given me through Midi is wisdom and perspective regarding marriage. Before my life with Midi, I could never have counseled a young couple about how to deal with conflict. Now I can. What is sad for me though is that while I can bless others from my experiences in marriage with Midi, I can no longer experience it myself. I only have memories left. Bittersweet. Thank you God for Midi. But why did you allow her to die?

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Acceptance = Submission

I've been in a funk of late, struggling to connect with God. I thought that it was because August has been such a crazy month. I've been on the road a lot and for the past couple of weeks Lucas' school has been closed as they prepare for the start of the next school year. So my summer, which to that point had been full but fruitful had in some ways been derailed - my routine disrupted. But a couple of days ago during a counseling session with my friend Sam I realized that this funk didn't happen because of a disruption in my routine but started on that night in Santa Barbara when I declared that I would trade my present for my past.

I realized that I had made a declaration that my present would never be good enough. No matter how God redeems and rebuilds and makes things new, it would never be good enough. In making this declaration, I put up a wall between me and God. I put up a wall and closed my heart to the one that has been with me in my suffering. I understood then that I have not accepted what has happened. Acceptance of what has happened and what my reality is now is hard. It has been, is, and will be my biggest act of faith. Acceptance is submission. But it is only in a posture of submission that any of us can receive from God. This is the battle that I must fight. And maybe it seems cruel that I have to fight for anything after what I've been through. It may seem that submission is bad. All of our human instincts fight against submission. If I choose to look at my situation as God forcing me to submit to Him, then I will struggle with Him. I will hate Him. But if I choose to look at submission as an opportunity to allow God in, and if I believe that He is good, then it will be a wise choice.

I'm learning that the past is a powerful force. For some of us, the past was so horrible that we are stuck in it. Abuse, neglect, loss, guilt, and shame keep us from being able to receive from the fully present God because they are rooted in the past and keep us stuck there. For others, the past was so wonderful that we cannot imagine that our present or future can compare. And so we close ourselves to the present God. This is the camp that I'm in. And this is the camp that I need to fight to get out of .

I have experienced God's presence in my life. But His presence in my past, even if it was just yesterday, is not enough to carry me through today. Even if my present is full of pain, I can have access to His presence if I choose. He offers to walk with me, one day at a time, if I will choose to abide in Him. But to abide, I must trust Him. I must submit.

Maybe there is a way that I can fully accept that my past life with Midi and Nathan was wonderful but is now gone. Maybe I can accept that to even consider trading the present for the past is not an option and so shouldn't be considered. And maybe I can accept what my life is now and I can choose to walk with God. And maybe I can escape the paradigm of comparison, or of cause and effect. Maybe I can be fully grateful for the past and the present. I don't know yet. But I'm wrestling with Him now, instead of building the wall.

Monday, August 4, 2008


"All those years I fell for the great palace lie that grief should be gotten over as quickly as possible and as privately. But what I've discovered since is that the lifelong fear of grief keeps us in a barren, isolated place and that only grieving can heal grief; the passage of time will lessen the acuteness, but time alone, without the direct experience of grief, will not heal it." ... "I'm pretty sure that it is only by experiencing the ocean of sadness in a naked and immediate way that we come to be healed - which is to say, that we come to experience life with a real sense of presence and spaciousness and peace." (Anne Lamott from Traveling Mercies)

My life is good.

As I sat outside a beautiful house, in a beautiful garden, in beautiful Santa Barbara, with the presence of thousands of stars, with meteors splashing light across the night sky, I reflected on how good my life is. I have an amazing son, who I am able to love more deeply than before, who I take joy in, who is so fun to be around. I have deep, deep friendships with several men I can call brothers that have been growing stronger week by week. I am a part of a vibrant, alive community of faith, where people of every color and walk of life love each other and exist to include others. I am growing in my love for FOL as I give it more of my heart and receive more from them. I have parents (Midi's as well as my own) who I love deeply and who love me deeply right back. I have family that I'm growing closer to as we learn to walk together through pain. And I have some who are starting to get to know Jesus. This brings me great joy. I know Jesus as the present one, the one who is with me, who comforts me and brings me peace. I know this Jesus in ways that I did not know him before the accident.

As I sat outside mindful of how good my life is and what wonderful things are happening around me, I felt strongly in my heart that I would give it all back to have Midi and Nathan back in my life. There is something in this that seems perfectly natural - of course I'm supposed to feel this way! But as I cried and cried I wondered if there will be a point where I am able to fully embrace the blessings of my present life without comparing it to (and wanting to trade it for) my blessed life with them? And I feel guilty in saying this at this stage, but I hope there is. If the day ever comes, I cannot imagine that I can marry again or welcome another child while continuing to feel this.

I think that this is yet another example of how we must all live in the present. As much as I want to, I cannot have my past back. I can always have the love I feel for Midi and Nathan because love is organic; love is living. Love is very present. It is the life with them that I cannot have again this side of heaven. My past life with Midi and Nathan was so, so good. It was special. Though it wasn't perfect, it was perfect to me. But my present life is pretty good, too. And good things are happening all around me. I hope I can embrace the present, where God himself dwells, with completely open arms. And someday, I hope that I will accept the beauty of my past and the fact that it is gone so that I will stop feeling in my heart that I would trade the present for it.

Sunday, July 6, 2008


"Oh taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!" (Psalm 34.8)

Bittersweet. This is the word that describes so much of my experience now. Things like enjoying Kung-Fu Panda with Lucas, and Midi's cousin Mina's family are bittersweet. Bitter because I think of how much Nathan would have enjoyed the slapstick humor and how much Midi would have enjoyed the verbal silliness with me and what a fun day out it would have been for my family. But yet it is also sweet. Seeing Lucas laugh heartily and talk about scenes from the movie with me days later is sweet. Growing in my love for Lucas is sweet.

My heart is expanding. I can feel it growing. My capacity to love better is greater. Even a wonderful thing like this is bittersweet. Bitter because I wish that I could love Midi and Nathan with this improved me. This will not go away this side of heaven. But it is so sweet what God is doing with me as I continue to trust in Him. What He is doing out of the ashes is a miracle. There is no rational explanation for why I am not a complete mess. I am not willing it to happen. I get strength, comfort, truth and perspective from the Word. I drink the Living Water. And I have a committed family of faith that loves me and lifts me up. I am a blessed man.

So while I will always feel the bitterness of loss and pain until the day I die, I am able to experience sweetness in life with Jesus greater than I was able to before the tragedy. I vowed to Midi that I would honor her. I believe that I do so by loving others with this sweeter love that I am able to give - to Lucas, to family, to my community, to my friends, and to the lost.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Because of Midi

Today was a challenging day of parenting. Lucas spilled a full cup of milk all over the floor. I wasn't pleased, but I forgave him, cleaned it up, and strongly urged him to use both hands and to pay attention (I think he knocked it over because he was fixated on the TV). After giving him another cup of milk, I briefly went to the other room. When I returned, I found that the second cup of milk had been spilled. I sent Lucas to his room, angrily cleaned up the mess, and stormed up the stairs to confront him. Trying to talk to him, I found that I was really seething with anger. So I left him in the room and went to mine to think about how to handle the situation. This was the first time since Midi died that I felt so burdened by the weight of raising a child by myself. I looked up at a framed collage of Midi and Nathan and acutely felt Midi's absence as a parent and partner. I wept. I wished that Midi was with us. My instincts told me to lash out in anger over Lucas' carelessness. But I knew that if Midi was present, she would show patience and grace to her son. I somehow felt empowered to do the same. So I went to Lucas' room and I looked into his eyes and told him that I forgave him. Then I held him for a long time.

Midi's influence on me is great. Moments such as these are so bittersweet, as is much of life now. I bitterly miss Midi. But I am so grateful that I was blessed to have her in my life, to be her partner and lover. Her lasting impact on me is sweet. I loved Lucas better today because of Midi.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Not Afraid

It's been almost six months since Midi and Nathan died. I used to wonder when the pain will go away and when I would be left with just scars. I don't anymore. I've come to a place where I know and accept that for the rest of my life, I will feel my loss. And when I do, it will hurt. There will never be a time of remembering them that my heart will not ache. And yet I am not afraid of the pain. I am not afraid that it will rip me apart or sink me into an unsalvageable despair. I have a relationship with my pain. I am glad for it in some ways. It keeps my heart connected to these two souls that I love so much.

There is a reason why I am not afraid. I have a relationship with God. It has made all the difference. In my darkest hours, He has been with me. He has answered my prayers. He has taught me so much in these six months. I am thankful that I've had eyes to see, ears to hear, and the heart to perceive what He has been doing. I suppose I've made some good choices. I've chosen to cling to the Truth. I've chosen to walk through my suffering with those who love me. I've chosen to love others, not focusing on my own tough circumstances. But it is God who is sustaining me. So much of what I've learned in the past about God I am now experiencing. He is the Living Water. "...those who drink of the water that I give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life." (John 4.14). "I am the Bread of Life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty." (John 6.35) We need water and food to live. We need it every day. I am learning this these past six months.

The three key moments that the living God intervened to rescue me from complete despair:

1. When at the mortuary, looking at their bodies in the caskets, weeping uncontrollably I asked Him to give me a sign that would give me assurance that they were with Him and that heaven was real. Instead of a sign, He gave me himself - through the Holy Spirit in the form of supernatural peace.

2. When going through the heaviest wave of grief, crying almost continuously for several days I asked Him to temporarily take the pain away because I didn't feel that I could survive much more. He did.

3. The week leading up to Mother's Day, I was anticipating an extremely heavy weekend of pain. God preemptively eased my fears by allowing me to partner with Him. It was my most significant week of ministry in the workplace in 12 years - Two students and one friend for whom God used me to speak comforting truth. Though I still had a difficult weekend, seeing how God was freeing others gave me assurance that my faith in Him was not futile, that my tears were collected, that I would not be forgotten, that Midi and Nathan were fulfilled in Him.

I will remember these ways that God has been ever present. They are powerful memorials that will help me fight unbelief. As powerful as they are, it is the daily relationship with Him that will keep me hydrated and fed. I love abiding in the Truth. I need God. I have no shame in declaring this. He loves me. I don't deserve His love, but I accept it with open arms.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day, Midi

Midi with Lucas on her 1st Mother's Day (2004)

Midi was an amazing mother. I knew she would be. It was one of the main reasons why I wanted to marry her. She was as nurturing, kind, affectionate, patient, generous, and loving as any mother could be. Nathan and Lucas were truly blessed to have her as their mother. She embraced the role with all of her heart. I loved seeing her in her role as the boys' mommy. I trusted her completely. She would play with them, teach them, and comfort them so wonderfully. Though there were times where she was exhausted and times where she may have struggled to remain patient, she always loved them well. Lucas' loss is immense.
Lucas, from what I can perceive, is doing very well. Midi would be so proud of him. His joyful, silly spirit has not been crushed by his losses. I can only trust that God is taking care of Lucas in the depths of his soul. I hope with all of my heart that the 4 years and 1 month (plus the 37 weeks in the womb) that Lucas had with Midi will leave a permanent impression on him. I believe it has. Though Lucas' personality is more like mine, I pray that the imprint of Midi has forever set him on a course of compassion, kindness, and deep joy. Because of Midi, I know that I am a more compassionate, kind, and joyful person than I was before she was so deeply in my life. I praise and thank God for Midi. I am sure that He sees her as one of his greatest creations. She was "fearfully and wonderfully made." (Psalm 139.14) Thank you, Lord, for Midi.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Mourning for Lucas

Mommy and Lucas (April 2005)

Our Family (July 2007)

I've been realizing more these days that I am not just mourning my own loss, but I am mourning on Lucas' behalf as well. I guess since he is so young, he is not able to grieve in the same way that I have been grieving. This is a blessing, but in a way it causes me great sadness. In a way, I want him to feel the acute loss because it would show he remembers them and longs to be with them again - like I do. It pains me to think that it is possible that when Lucas is older, he will not remember his Oh-ma and his twin brother. It seems that the majority of adults do not have vivid memories from their first four years of life. We have pictures and some video, but it is my hope that somehow Lucas is able to retain some vivid happy memories of his mommy and brother and these memories are etched in his brain.

As Lucas' life moves forward and he experiences new things, it is so bittersweet for me. This past Saturday, Lucas had his first T-ball game. It was so much fun watching him and all of the other children play and learn. I took the videocamera to capture it which probably saved me from feeling the tougher least during the game. But each time Lucas experiences a new thing and I enjoy his life, it makes me sad that he has to go through it without his best friend and his mommy. Nathan would have loved playing T-ball with his "big" brother, too. And Midi would have enjoyed watching her boys play so much. It is times like these that I feel lonely - for Lucas and for myself.

And I think of who Lucas will become. He will not be the same teenager, young adult, or man that he would have been with the steady influence of his amazing mother throughout the rest of his life. Midi was truly special. I think of the Lucas at age 18 who had his mommy's tender love, compassion, gentle spirit, and grace and I mourn that he doesn't exist. There is no substitute for the love that Lucas will miss out on from Midi. I know that I do not have the same gifts that Midi possessed. I can only love Lucas from who I am. I can only hope and pray that the God who made Midi and gifted her so generously will somehow impart these qualities on Lucas in some other way. And I must trust that He will. But it still hurts me that it won't be through Midi.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Happiest Moment of My Life

Nathan and Lucas at 2 months old
The happiest moment of my life was the time when Midi and I found out that we were having twins. I can remember it so vividly. We went to Dr. Herald Brundage's office in Burbank knowing that Midi was pregnant. The pregnancy test that we took a few days earlier confirmed that. So as we sat in the exam room waiting for Dr. Brundage to do the ultrasound, I remember feeling so close to Midi. We knew that we were starting an exciting journey...the beginning of the rest of our lives together. Dr. Brundage came in and started the exam. A few seconds into it, he says, "Oh! Do you know what you are looking at?" We reply, "No." And he said, "Well, here is your baby and the other one!" They looked like a couple of peanuts. Both of us were completely surprised. I remember that I immediately started giggling - probably a combination of nervousness and pure joy. That is a feeling that I will never forget. The purity of that moment is one that I cannot explain. It was perfect. There was not even a tinge of terror or denial that I thought I would have if I found out I was having twins. It was pure joy. At that moment I felt like my heart was yearning to be the father of twins. My whole being was completely ready. I just held Midi securely as we laughed and cried together.
I don't know that anyone who has not parented twins can know how awesome it is. Of course, it was a lot of work taking care of them. But the daily pleasures of having two babies and watching them grow and relate to one another were something that I would never trade. Having to take care them required Midi and I to be excellent partners to one another. And the boys always had each other. They never had to sleep alone or play alone or do anything alone. They were so friends. I loved my family and how God formed it. To me, it was perfect.
So as I remember the happiest moment of my life, I have so many emotions running through me. I can still connect to the feelings of joy and exhiliration. I can still feel the closeness with Midi. I can still feel that sense of awe and hopefulness. But now, I also feel such intense pain at all that I have lost. So I realize that even my happy memories are now ones that I can only look back on through the lens of loss. I can't look back on the happy memories that Midi and I shared with her. Midi is gone. I have not lost the memories, but I have lost the ability to remember with only joy. Now pain accompanies everything.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Psalm 119

I was meditating on Psalm 119 today and it really spoke to me.

Verse 28

"My soul melts away for sorrow;

strengthen me according to your word."

Verse 50

"This is my comfort in my distress,

that your promise gives me life."

Verse 74

"Those who fear you shall see me and rejoice,

because I have hoped in your word."

Verse 76

"Let your steadfast love become my comfort

according to your promise to your servant."

Verse 92

"If your law had not been my delight,

I would have perished in my misery."

Verse 94

"I am yours; save me,

for I have sought your precepts."

Verse 165

"Great peace have those who love your law;

nothing can make them stumble."

Since Midi and Nathan died, I have had two major times where I cried out to God. Those two times were not your ordinary, run-of-the-mill times of prayer. I cried out desperately from the depths of my soul, completely naked before God in ways that I have never done before. And He answered me both times. The first time was before the family viewing at the mortuary a week after they died. I went in to the viewing room alone about an hour before anyone else arrived. Upon seeing them lying in the caskets, I wept uncontrollably. After a few minutes I kept repeating to myself, "They are not there." Then I cried out to God, "Help me, God. Help me believe. I believe, help my unbelief." And I asked Him to give me some kind of sign so that I could know that heaven and the promise of eternal life and resurrection were real. I was hoping for a supernatural sign. What happened a few minutes later that carried on through the rest of the evening was that God gave me peace. It may sound strange, but in one of the hardest nights of my life, His peace descended on me. I testify that it was real and even observable (ask anyone who was there). Peace is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. God answered my cries...just not exactly in the way that I was asking Him to. Skeptics can say what they will, but I tell you that God answered my prayers.

The second time was last week. On Tuesday night (April 1), after three heavy days of mourning, in my brokenness and tears I desperately asked God to please let Wednesday be an easier day. I asked Him to temporarily keep the pain at bay so that I could recover. I told him that I didn't think I could handle it much longer. The result? Wednesday was lighter and the rest of the week was better. I'm sure other heavy waves are coming - maybe even worse than what I experienced last week. But after the way that God answered my prayers in the midst of my pain, I am confident that no matter how hard it gets, He will be there for me. I testify to His personal nature and faithfulness.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Healing and Loving

In my horrible circumstances it may seem natural that I would seek only to have my needs met and that I would focus only on my own problems. But even in the aftermath of my unspeakable loss, I think that it would be unhealthy and wrong to do this. We are all supposed to love others...always. We, created in God's image, are meant to love. It is what we were made to do. It reflects Him more than anything else. And it is so, so good for us. The irony of giving away love generously is that we actually receive in the giving. It is such a wonderful and true dynamic. This is not to say that I should neglect my own needs. I need healing. I need to deal with my pain and suffering. But if I live only for myself and my own healing then I am missing out on the work and partnership with Jesus that he has for me. In fact, I believe that becoming self-absorbed is the absolute wrong path and that it will only lead me to depression and other forms of mental illness. The path of healing must involve active love for others.

I am so grateful that I have Lucas in my life. For he is a constant reminder to me that I am not to live only for myself. I receive so much in loving Lucas. And there is more to receive if I choose to love others. Opening my heart and creating space so I can love is hard, but it is the right path. My heart has grown out of this darkness that I am in. My capacity to love, to be honest, to hope for, to share, and to lead has grown.

"Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled, as to console;
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying, that we are born to eternal life. Amen."

A prayer of St. Francis of Assisi

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Cards with Midi's Writing

I, with the help of friends, have been compiling a variety of letters, photos, and other personal items for Memory Boxes of Midi and Nathan. If you have ever received encouragement cards or birthday cards from Midi that tangibly demonstrate her loving character would you consider making a copy of it and submitting it to the Memory Boxes? I think that seeing her writing through her relationships to others will be a blessing to me as well as to Lucas in the future. I really want Lucas to know how lovely his mother was and how well she loved others. If these are too personal for you, then I completely understand if you cannot do this. Thank you.

As many of you know, the song that Alex sung at the funeral service was born from an encouragement card that Midi wrote for him during college. Stories such as this one are such a beautiful testimony to her great ability/gift to love others. Midi wrote me the most wonderful cards (birthday, Christmas, Father's Day). Some were silly, but most were so heartfelt and encouraging. I will cherish these always.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

3 Months

Today marks three months since Midi and Nathan died and the lives of those left behind changed forever. I visited the gravesite today after work. I've been there a handful of times, but never alone until today. It was good to go today - good in the sense that it was real. Since no one was around I got to cry as loud as I wanted to, pray as earnestly as I could, and talk to them without feeling watched in any way.

Before my wife and son died my experiences with death were limited to grandparents. While I grieved losing them, what I'm experiencing now is a category unto its own, which (thankfully) not many that I've come across have experienced. I used to think that visiting gravesites was pointless. I confess that I used to look down on those who did, thinking stupidly that talking to their dead loved ones and sitting on the grass was a waste of time and not helpful. I even thought it illogical to leave flowers. All is different now. Going to visit the graves feels right. I don't feel that it is pointless. The first time I went, I felt the urge to talk to Midi and Nathan. The thinking part of me believed that they wouldn't hear me. But my heart told me that it was OK and maybe even good...for me. I also wondered how God felt about me talking to them. So before I addressed Midi and Nathan, I prayed to God. I told Him that I was going to talk to Midi and Nathan. And I told Him that if it was wrong or weird in any way, that He would get over it. Such is my relationship with God.

Lucas has been to the gravesite a couple of times, but I don't think that it is helpful for him. I think it is too abstract. Maybe some day it will be meaningful for him.

I've been told that the grief will come in waves. I have found this to be true so far. After three months, every day has not been a tearfest, but most have. For the past three or four days, I feel like I've been hit by one of the biggest waves of grief so far. Parts of yesterday and the day before were hardly bearable. I'm not sure that there is a trigger this time. It may just be a normal spike, like how it is when you are at the beach and the occasional big wave comes by. There have been times during this wave that I felt that I was going to drown. Or it may be that I've thought through my process of grief so much that my brain is taking a break and allowing my heart to take greater control of my body for a while. I can only hope that this wave will end soon because I can't take much more.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Remember, But Not Experience

A few more thoughts from Nicholas Wolterstorff's Lament For A Son...

"Photographs that once evoked the laughter of delighted reminiscence now cause only pain."

"Something is over. In the deepest levels of my existence something is finished, done. My life is divided into before and after."

"...instead of lines of memory leading up to (their lives) in the present, they all enter a place of cold, inky blackness and never come out. The book slams shut. The story stops, it doesn't finish. The future closes, the hopes get crushed. And now instead of those shiny moments being things we can share together in delighted memory, I, the survivor, have to bear them alone. So it is with all memories of (them). They all lead into that blackness. It's all over, over, over. All I can do is remember (them). I can't experience (them). The (people) to whom those memories are attached are no longer here with me. (They're) only in my memory now, not in my life. Nothing new can happen between us. Everything is sealed tight, shut in the past."

The statements above are so true. All I can do is remember them. I can't experience them. But I will take what I can get at this point. I want to remember them...all the time. Even though looking at photographs causes pain, I want to do it often. It is all I can have of them now. So if you are out there wondering how you can talk to me or how you can bless me then this is what I have to say. Don't hold back. I want you to share with me your memories of Midi and Nathan. Your memories are like the photographs that I want to look at. They may cause me some pain, but I want them because it is all that I can have of Midi and Nathan now. I know that you do not want to make me cry, but I'm asking you to not hold your memories to yourself because you are afraid of hurting me. If you can record your memories in some way (a letter, a collage, a recording, or even on this blog) then that's even better as I (and Lucas) will be able to see/hear it again and again at our choosing. Those of you who have already done so, thank you, thank you, thank you. Andrea, thank you for sharing with me a few weeks ago at Life Group about your memory of Midi when she and I first started dating. That memory blessed me beyond measure. And Fina, thank you also for sharing with me at the wedding reception how my love made a difference in Midi's life. To have made a difference in the life of such an amazing woman of God fills my heart with gladness.

I miss them so much. But I miss loving them, not just the love that they gave to me. It is in the giving of love that I felt so fulfilled. It is the giving of love that made me feel like a man. Midi was my true love. She loved so freely and I loved her so very much. She was so special that I felt that I had to share her with others so that others would be blessed. Her love wasn't meant for just me. That is why I always encouraged her to visit her friends or a former coworker and reach out to people who needed love. She was extremely generous with her love. And Nathan was the apple of my eye. I know that my judgment is biased but I think anyone that knew him will tell you that Nathan was truly special. He was so gifted. And he was such a giver, which you don't see very often in a 4 year old. I remember how he would so freely share a toy he was enjoying with Lucas. This may not be saying much 'cause I'm not exactly a genius, but I think Nathan was way smarter than me. He scared me sometimes. But it was his empathetic nature that truly amazed me.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

I'm Stronger Now

"Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us." -Romans 5.1-5

I've always thought that this was a cool passage. But now that I am going through this horrible tragedy in my life, I feel the truth of it deeply. It's only been about 75 days since Midi and Nathan died. But I can already feel that I am growing. I'm stronger now. Even in my weakness, I am strong. My faith is stronger than it has ever been, even when I first came to faith in Jesus. My capacity to love has grown. I am a better father to Lucas than I ever was. I am a better son, a better son-in-law, a better brother, a better cousin, a better friend, a better follower of Jesus. I have perceived this growth from the earliest of days after the accident. And I perceived that others around me would grow in their faith as well. My first response to this growth out of the ashes was anguish and guilt. I felt that the cost was too high. Midi and Nathan dying was an unspeakable cost to get myself and others to wake up and consider the course of our own lives.

But I quickly realized that my thinking was incorrect and a perversion of the truth. For to think this way means that I would have to believe that God caused the accident to happen. It would mean that God actually did it. But this is not true. God did not cause the accident, but rather I believe that He allowed it to happen. I am not sophisticated enough to dive into deep theological thoughts about the sovereignty of God. What I know is that God is good. I believe this. I am content with this (for now at least) and do not feel that I need to understand everything about God's sovereignty in order to have faith. My experience has been that God is grieving alongside me. The accident happened specifically because a broken man committed an irresponsible act. He drank himself to intoxication, drove someone else's truck, and sped through a red light, killing my wife and son. Then he ran. The accident happened more generally because we live in a fallen world where sinners sin and rebel against God. And there are consequences to our rebellion. Namely, we live in a world that is cursed with death. Now don't get me wrong. I believe that this man is solely responsible for what he did and that he should be punished. But whether he is caught and punished or not will not change things for me. My wife and son are dead. But it isn't as though some harsh punishment is going to make me feel good about the justice system. What I do and how I live does not in any way depend on whether or not this man is brought to justice.

I'm stronger now. And others are starting to seek God in their lives - some for the first time and some are coming back to Him. And we shouldn't feel guilty about it because God did not cause the accident to happen so that we would grow. He is not some disgusting cosmic manipulator. The truth and the beauty of God is that He is the Great Redeemer. He only can make something good out of something so awful. He doesn't leave me to just suffer for no reason. I am grateful to God for my relationship with Him. It is because of this that my suffering will lead to endurance, endurance to character, character to hope. I only wish that Midi and Nathan could experience this new and improved Mark that is being formed.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Lucas Update

Lucas is adjusting to his new normal. The first week after coming home from the hospital, he slept in my bed with me. When I transitioned him back to his bed, he adjusted very well. He started going to his new preschool on Feb. 4. While he had some initial apprehension, he has adjusted well. I am so proud of him.

We have developed a weekly schedule for him that I think helps him to feel a sense of order and predictability, which likely leads to some sense of safety. He goes to Bethany Preschool in Long Beach Monday through Friday. On Monday and Thursday evenings we join Midi's parents at their house for dinner. On Wednesdays I drop him off at his grandparents' house and he sleeps over. Fridays we have dubbed "Fun Friday". So far Fun Friday has included having the Hongs sleep over and video and popcorn night. Future Fun Fridays could include going to the Aquarium of the Pacific, driving out to Corona to spend the night at my sister's house, going to the Hong's house to sleep over, and going out to a movie. On Saturday mornings he has pancakes. In the afternoon we go to Baachan's house and he gets to play with his cousins and see the extended family. Sunday we go to church. He has also been seeing a counselor once a week. Joe Gevas, a friend and sometimes teacher of his Sunday school, usually comes to play with him once a week as well. Soon, he will start Tee-Ball and will have games Saturday mornings.

Grief for Lucas looks very different than it does for me. He does not often cry. There are times when he gets upset about something unrelated and starts to cry which then leads him to say "I miss mommy." So I think sadness in general is a trigger to thinking about his loss. When he sees me grieving, he does not enter into it with me. I think feeling the sadness is scary for him so he steers clear of it. It is times when I share happy memories with him that he jumps right in. For example, if I say, "Do you remember when you and Nathan used to wrestle?" or "Do you remember when Oh-ma used to lay down next to you and scratch your back?" then he will enter into the moment eagerly and share his own recollections. We have a special memory corner where we sometimes go to look at pictures or read books that the boys used to enjoy together.

There is one major change in the way he plays. There have been times when he has played with cars and made them crash into each other, almost recreating the scene of the tragedy. He also uses the word "die" or "dead" frequently in his play. I have learned that this is normal processing for a four year old. But at the same time, I have noticed that he has a very strong defense mechanism when he is asked specifically about how he feels - avoidance. Part of it is that he doesn't have the words to describe what he is feeling. But part of it is also a defense. As his parent, I hope that I can help him learn to deal with his problems well. Avoidance is such a common unhealthy defense mechanism. For some it leads to alcohol, for others video games, for others complete isolation and withdrawal from relationships. While Lucas' use of avoidance is completely understandable and maybe in some ways necessary, I hope I can help him so that it doesn't cripple his ability to deal with adversity throughout his life.

Though I am in no way a mental health professional, I would say that he is doing very well under the circumstances. His prognosis is very good.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Missing Nathan

"It's so wrong, so profoundly wrong, for a child to die before its parents. It's hard enough to bury our parents. But that we expect. Our parents belong to our past, our children belong to our future. We do not visualize our future without them. How can I bury my son, my future, one of the next in line? He was meant to bury me!" - from Lament For A Son by Nicholas Wolterstorff.

I miss Nathan. I miss him so deeply. I miss his laughter. I miss his smile. I miss his sweetness. I miss his intelligence. I miss picking him up after work and talking to him about his day. I miss his strong grip. I miss his healthy appetite for all foods. I miss his deference to his brother. I miss seeing him play with Lucas. I miss his sweet voice. I miss hearing him sing to Rafi songs in the car. I miss his Curious George dance. I miss how he used to line up his cars in a row so neatly. I miss him coming into my bed Saturday mornings to wake me up and watch cartoons while I continued to snooze. I miss bathing him and putting his puppyhead towel on him. I miss tickling him. I miss pushing him on the swing set and making him laugh. I miss his funny, inquisitive nature. I miss his love for brown socks and shirts. I miss seeing him take his puppy with him everywhere. I miss watching him sleep. I miss teaching him stuff. I miss letting him crawl all over me or get up on my shoulders. I miss reading to him. I miss the funny way that he would hit a golf ball. I miss hugging and kissing him. Oh how I miss my Nathan!

Though losing Midi has been devastating, losing Nathan has been excruciating. It is harder to lose a child than to lose a spouse. As his daddy, I was supposed to protect him. I was supposed to guide him through childhood. I was supposed to go to his games and school events. I was supposed to talk to him about girls and relationships. I was supposed to take him on long summer road trips across the country and camping trips. I was supposed to send him to college. I was supposed to meet his friends. I was supposed to spoil his children. Losing Nathan is a horrible injustice. Four year olds are not supposed to die!!!

I wish that my grandmother (Obachama) was still alive. She lost her husband and her four year old daughter back in 1945 or 1946 to cholera. She was the only one who I personally knew who could possibly relate to what I'm going through. Until the day she died at 85 in 1998, she could not talk about that horrible time in her life - at least not for long. But, I suppose I can take some comfort in knowing that Obachama was one of the most profoundly joyful people I knew. She was a woman of deep character, faith, and compassion for others. I hope I can be like her. I hope I can live my life well even through my suffering. I hope I can experience the joys of life again as she learned to after her tragedy.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Back to Work

I returned to work at Gabrielino High on Thursday, February 28th. I was a bit nervous and I didn't really know what to say to my students and colleagues. So I just told my kids the truth - that it felt awkward to be back. But I figured that as much as I didn't know what to say, others probably didn't know what to say to me either. So I just told my students that we should just acknowledge the awkwardness and be OK with it. Physically, work has felt exhausting. I went back on a Thursday because I felt that two days in a row was about as much as I could stand. I felt that I would need a weekend to rest, reflect, and regroup before tackling a full week. Now two days into my first full week, I feel that my legs are under me a bit more. I feel that I can do the job of teaching my students and guiding them through the last 3.5 months of the school year.

When I returned, many came to see me and gave me a hug. Some tried talking to me, others did not. The words didn't really matter. I can scarcely remember anything that anyone said those first couple of days anyway. But I remember their presence and the love that was communicated through those visits. My friend Scott came and had lunch with me, kindly bringing a salad for me. That was nice. Thank you to all of you at GHS who have reached out with your heart to me. I'm extremely grateful.

Though work is a bit of a distraction, I find myself wanting to think about my wife and my son. Every chance I get, I think about them. I look at the collages on my wall that capture so many happy moments. I can look at them for hours. Though it hurts, I don't want to move on. It feels so very wrong to even consider moving on. I don't even know what moving on really means anyway. I can only live in the present and right now, the only thing that feels right is to think of Midi and Nathan as much as I can. I don't even have a choice right now. Between sentences during a math lesson I think of them. During a bite of my sandwich I think of them. I can't stop my heart from yearning for them and I don't want to no matter how much the yearning hurts. Every book I've read by people who have suffered tragic loss indicates that someday I will be able to move forward. They indicate that this intense grief is a phase that will pass. As I am in it now, it is difficult for me to imagine a day when I will live without this pain that, in some ways, gives me comfort. Pain and a broken heart is where I am supposed to be right now. There is no rush to get out.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Pain Outweighs Gratitude

The following is a lament by Nicholas Wolterstorff from his book Lament For A Son. His son died in a climbing accident when he was 24 years old.

"We took (them) too much for granted. Perhaps we all take each other too much for granted. The routines of life distract us; our own pursuits make us oblivious; our anxieties and sorrows, unmindful. The beauties of the familiar go unremarked. We do not treasure each other enough.

(They were gifts) to us. When the gift was finally snatched away, I realized how great it was. Then I could not tell (them). An outpouring of letters arrived, many expressing appreciation for (Midi and Nathan). They all made me weep again: each word of praise a stab of loss.

How can I be thankful, in (their) gone-ness, for what (they were)? I find I am. But the pain of the no more outweighs the gratitude of the once was. Will it always be so?

I didn't know how much I loved (them) until (they were) gone.

Is love like that?"

My pain has intensified the past couple of weeks. Maybe the fact that they are gone is starting to sink in deeper - into parts of my being that have never been touched. Maybe it's because my "to do" list has shrunk and I find myself with time to grieve and soak in my pain. I think it is possible that I've cried more in the past two months than my entire life combined. My mother did tell me that I was an easy baby and did not cry much. The initial burst of peace from the Holy Spirit that I felt so powerfully in the first couple of weeks has faded. Yet I still believe that God is with me. I believe in the Christian God because He is the only god who knows of my suffering. He is the only god who chose suffering and experienced humanity. He is the only God who defeated death. And He is the only god who made the audacious promise that if we put our faith in Him, following him in our lives, that His victory over death is our victory over death as well. Other faiths promise reincarnation, or a complete emptying of self, or some spiritual "oneness" with the life force, or something vague and meaningless like that. Those ideas are completely unappealing to me and they ring false. I believe in Jesus, the God who would be man; the only one to conquer death through resurrection. Besides, after I die, I want to be me, not some absorbed piece of oneness. I want to be who I am supposed to be, without the curse of sin. I want to see Midi and Nathan again in the New Earth where I don't have to fear death, mine or theirs. If there is just emptiness, reincarnation, or oneness then they are truly gone forever. I just don't believe that to be the case.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Barbarian Con & Lucas' Loneliness

After I graduated from college, I lived with four buddies from UCLA. Our common bond was a shared faith in Jesus, growth and maturity through our days in Bruin Christian Fellowship, and bachelorhood. We rented a house in Mar Vista on Barbara Avenue. It is for that reason (and not because of any unsavory behavior) that we dubbed ourselves "The Barbarians". These men (David, Chris, Jon W, and Jon Y) are more than just friends to me. They are my brothers. We have all been in each others' weddings. We have all been through dark days together. We have held each others' children and we have been through fire (figuratively and literally - just ask Chris) with each other. These are my lifelong pals. We can share our deepest struggles with each other. We have an implied understanding that we will always be there for one another no matter what life throws at us. Though three of us live in SoCal and two of us live in NoCal, we have also made it a point to get together at least once a year to hang out. These Barbarian Conferences or "Barb Cons" are great times to catch up with each other and just hang out.

This past weekend, the Barbarians came down to my house to spend the weekend with me and Lucas. Overall, it was a great weekend. There were two highlights. The first was Saturday dinner at my aunt's house. My mom cooked her amazing chicken katsu and sukiyaki for us. After the awesome dinner, we played some Guitar Hero with my family. It was a lot of fun. I love when different parts of my life come together. The second highlight was the purchase of a new car. The previous weekend, the SoCal Barbarians (Dave, Chris, and I) test drove five cars. I narrowed my choices to two. Now, I know absolutely nothing about cars. It just isn't a passion for me. Reliably getting from Point A to Point B is really my main concern. So I called on my brothers to help me and they did not fail. Dave did the homework, coming prepared with Consumer Reports printouts and other key information. Anyway, to make a long story short, I purchased a car Sunday afternoon. Chris was the champion negotiator while I barely spoke. I was just there to write the check and get the keys. Jon W stayed home to keep Lucas company. It was a great team effort that typifies the spirit of the Barbarians. Everyone should be so blessed as I am with these men of strength and character.

Monday night, Barb Con ended. Chris had to leave Sunday night due to a work trip. Dave drove Jon W to Long Beach Airport and I drove Jon Y to LAX. On the way home, Lucas and I were talking and he completely caught me off guard. He asked me, "Dad, am I going to get a new Oh-ma?" (Oh-ma is the Korean name for "mommy"). I was totally unprepared for this question. I tearfully explained to him that he will never have Oh-ma back but that someday when he is older, he may have a different mom. I asked him if he wanted another mom. He said yes. I cried as I reassured him that if he ever did have another mom, that I would make sure that she loves him. We then talked about Nathan. I explained to him that he will never have Nathan back but that someday when he is older, he may have a baby brother or sister. I asked him if he wanted to have a brother or sister. He said yes.

For me, this is the hardest conversation that I have had with Lucas. It gives me tears just thinking about it. It shows me two things. One is that Lucas is fully aware that Oh-ma and Nathan are gone. Two is that Lucas is very lonely. He is processing his loss. He daily feels the void in his life - no brother to go to school with, no mommy to hug and kiss him, no brother to wrestle with, no mommy to sleep next to, no brother and mommy to laugh with. Oh, my poor son! I wish I could make it better for him. All I can do is grieve with him, reassure him with my presence and love, and help him establish a new normal. And I must do this while God grieves with me, reassures me with His presence and love, and helps me establish a new normal.

For those of you reading this who believe in the Holy Spirit, please pray for me and my boy. Pray that God would grant me wisdom and strength to care for Lucas. Pray for Lucas to feel safe and hopeful. Pray for me to abide in Him.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


One week after Midi and I started dating in January 2000, I was almost killed in a car accident on the 405 freeway with my friend Clayton. What if it all ended then? It almost ended for me as my greatest human relationship was just beginning.

When Midi was pregnant with the boys in 2003, she was in a car accident on the way to work. It gave her a jolt but was not life threatening for her. But it could have been a miscarriage causing accident. What if it ended there for my boys?

In the summer of 2006, Midi, the boys, my mother, and I were in a pretty bad car accident on the 10 freeway in Palm Springs while returning home from a trip. The car didn't flip, but it could have been bad. What if death got us then?

On the night of January 1, 2008 I can think of lots of things that perhaps could have changed that night. What if we hadn't left our cousin's house that night at just that time? What if someone lingered a little longer to talk or to go the bathroom? What if we took the most direct route home instead of taking an alternate route home to show Midi of another way for her to come home from work on a daily basis?

The questions I've posed (the 'What if's) are completely pointless and futile to ask. One could go insane thinking of these kinds of questions. I am not a "What if" kind of guy, thank God. The truth is that people that constantly ask "What if" types of questions are people who think that they can control everything. Seeking to change the past, even if it is just in your mind, is a search for control. We seek control because we are prideful. And we seek control because we want to make ourselves feel safe. The truth is that ultimately we are not in control. Sure, there are some things you can control. You can control what you are going to wear. You can control if you are going to try to do your homework. You can control how much TV you watch. In short, you can control the choices you make on a daily basis. But you cannot control anything outside of you. You cannot control if it will rain...or if there will be an earthquake...or if a drunk driver hits your car killing half of your family. You cannot control how someone feels about you. You can try, but that's called manipulation. You cannot control the aging process leading to death. You can try, through exercise, diet, or plastic surgery, but you are still going to age...and die someday.

My point in highlighting the fact that other than our immediate choices we do not have control is not a call for us all to despair. I am not advocating that because we cannot control the fact that we will die someday that we should live recklessly or apathetically, not caring about our life or others'. Instead I am advocating two things. One, make good choices. You still have a lot of power in what you can control. You can still choose to extend yourself in love rather than to withdraw because you are afraid to open yourself up to pain. You can still choose hope instead of despair. You can still choose forgiveness instead of bitterness. Choices like these have eternal worth. (What you are going to wear, thankfully, does not).

Two, be humble. Get over yourself! You cannot control everything. If you are one who thinks about What Ifs all the time, you need to stop doing that. It is crippling to your growth and it is arrogant. We should not think of the past through the 'What If' lens. We should think of the past rightly. We should remember things in the past through the lens of gratitude. For me, that means not wasting time thinking about how I would have changed things to avoid what happened. It means thinking about Midi and Nathan, missing them, and being grateful that they were ever in my life in the first place. The greatest gifts in my life are ones that I had no control over. I couldn't make Midi love me. It took a while, but she eventually chose to love me. And I certainly had no control over what my child would be like. That he was the most amazing gift God has ever given me, so unique and gifted, so precious and loving, so trusting and innocent...I had no control over.

Thank you, God, for Midi. Thank you for 8 years of her unconditional love. And thank you, God, for Nathan. Thank you that I had the privilege of being his daddy for 4 years. Thank you for all the joy that they brought into my life and into the lives of so many. I am eternally grateful.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Zoo

Today, Lucas and I went to the San Diego Zoo with my sister, brother-in-law, niece, nephew, cousin, and aunt. It was a beautiful day. Lucas got to wear shorts and a short sleeve t-shirt for the first time in months. We saw the baby panda, lions, bears, elephants, gorillas, orangutans, hippos, and many other animals. Lucas had a blast. For me, although I enjoyed the beautiful day and the company of my family, it was another tough day. It was just so sad for me when I saw Lucas and his cousins climb up on a bronze hippo for a picture and give a sillyface pose. Seeing that made me so painfully aware of the absence of Nathan. And it was sad when I saw a double stroller with twins inside. I felt overwhelmed today by the absence of Nathan and Midi. They should have been there with us. I think that any time I'm in a context which previously was a time for the four of us to bond as a family, I feel this acute pain. I think that this is especially true for special outings like the zoo or any vacation.

But I feel this pain every day. I feel this pain when I pick up Lucas from preschool because I remember how I would pick Nathan and Lucas up and talk to them about their day while driving home. And I remember waiting with them for Midi to come home from work and celebrating her arrival with hugs and kisses. I feel this pain nightly when I get Lucas ready for bed because I remember how I would bathe the boys and how Nathan would have his puppyhead towel and Lucas would have his lionhead towel and they would go downstairs naked to get Midi to come upstairs. And I remember how they would jump on their beds and how Midi and I would lay down next to them to read books and pray. And I remember how on most nights one or both of us would fall asleep next to our twin angels. I feel this pain every Saturday when Lucas and I go to Baachan's house because I remember how we would all go as a family. And I remember how the boys would play together and watch the same Clifford VHS tape every week. And I remember how Midi would love to sit in the massage chair and how she would love to talk with my extended family. I miss them so much that I actually feel physical pain my throat or chest.

I spend every waking moment thinking about them and missing them in some form or another. I have no idea what healing will look like for me. Will it mean that I will stop thinking about them as much? Will it mean that when I do think about them, it won't hurt as badly? Will it mean that I can enjoy family times without thinking about how Midi and Nathan are missing? Will it mean I can laugh freely again without feeling like I shouldn't? What will it mean?

Thursday, February 7, 2008


I've been told by a few people that they tried to post a comment, but were unable to. The default setting for this blog is that only people with a google account could post a comment. I've changed that so that anyone can comment. Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to read my blog. I know that your heart is with Lucas and me. And thank you to everyone who has posted a comment already. I am encouraged by you all and feel your support and love.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Lucas' First Day and A Hard Day For Me

Yesterday was Lucas' first day at his new preschool, Bethany Preschool in Long Beach. The whole week leading up to the big day, I tried to prepare Lucas and get him excited for this new chapter in his life. His responses to me were apprehensive at best. The morning went smoothly. He woke up at his usual 7AM and came into my room to wake me up. He got dressed, brushed his teeth, and had breakfast. I quickly got myself ready and made his lunch. When we got to the school it was reception/free play time. I stayed with him from 8 to 8:30AM. He was very shy about playing with the other kids and stayed close to me. I could sense that he was nervous, but he was also interested in playing on the playground. At 8:30 I introduced him to one of his teachers, Ms. Maggie, and told him that I had to leave. He clung on to me nervously and didn't want me to leave. But after reassuring him that I would pick him up later and that he would have a fun day, he gave me a hug and said, "OK. Bye, Daddy." No tears. No meltdown. I am so proud of him!!! Tears started to well up for me as I left the school. I was feeling so much love for Lucas that I couldn't control my emotions. And I was feeling sad that he had to start this new journey without his brother.

Lucas had a great first day. The director watched him for a while and was impressed with how well he adjusted and with how much he knew. He got along with the other kids and followed directions. I arrived to pick him up at about 2PM. When I went in to his room, he was laying down on his cot, waking up from his nap. He ran over, gave me a big hug and said, "I need to go shi (pee)." After talking briefly with his teacher, Ms. Sue, Lucas said goodbye and we walked out. On the way home, I peppered him with questions. Though he wasn't oozing with enthusiasm, I could tell that he felt comfortable at Bethany. Thank God.

Today was Lucas' second day of school. He had another great day. But my day was difficult. I had scheduled to go with a Deputy to see the van. I wanted to retrieve some personal items: Lucas & Nathan's backpacks with their names embroidered on them, their jackets, some toys, and the garage door opener. I expected to have a hard time and to break down. My friend/brother Clayton went with me. The van was being kept in a warehouse/lot that was full of wrecked cars in downtown L.A.. As we parked and started walking to the lot, I started to feel very uneasy. I was scared of seeing the van. After the deputy signed some papers, the man at the lot escorted us to the van. When I first saw the van, I couldn't believe how mangled it was. (Though I was conscious after the accident, I recall very little. At some point I think I went into shock. Visually, I only remember seeing Lucas sitting in his carseat behind me, conscious. I also remember crying to an officer, "Please tell me this is a nightmare." Beyond that, my next memory is being in the hospital.) ***Note: The following is a detailed account of what I saw. The images may be painful to read about. Please skip to the last paragraph if you do not want to know details of what I saw.*** The passenger side of the van was completely caved in. The passenger seat in the front had been pushed all the way into the driver seat. The top of the passenger seat was collapsed like an accordion. About a week ago, I discovered that when the emergency help arrived on scene, Midi was laying across my lap. When I saw how the passenger seat was crushed up against the driver's seat, I could visualize Midi laying across my lap. I wept. I am weeping even now as I am remembering. My wife, partner, and best friend died in my lap.

Then I looked in the back. The seat behind the passenger seat, where Nathan sat in his carseat, was also pushed through the middle and into the seat behind the driver's seat, where Lucas was sitting. Though the entire seat was pressed in at an angle, the carseat was remarkably intact. But I saw a large bloodstain on the seat. My sweet son Nathan must have been bleeding from the left side of his head. I sobbed. I am sobbing now. Nathan suffered a fatal injury. At around 7AM the morning after the crash, I held him as he died in my lap.

When I went to the van today, I knew what I was getting myself into. I knew that I would relive the pain of losing Midi and Nathan. And I knew that I would see things that would give my brain more images to recall the horror of that night and its lasting painful effect on my life. But I am not into avoidance. I do not want to avoid pain if it means superficial healing. And I believe in the hope of the resurrection, of new bodies on the new earth thanks to Jesus' victory over death. And so even though I was afraid of seeing the wrecked van, I was not afraid of it sending me into a downward spiral of despair. And besides, I was very determined to get the personal items, especially the name embroidered backpacks and the jackets. I wanted to have Nathan's backpack and his blue hooded jacket to keep for his memory box. On a final note, it was very difficult to get them, but after about 15 minutes I was able to retrieve everything that I hoped to get.

Sunday, February 3, 2008


People have asked me if there are triggers that cause me to really feel the pain of my loss. I wonder if knowing what they are would be helpful. If I knew, would I avoid the trigger? I don't think that would be healthy. And what would it do for someone else to know what the triggers are? Would they try to keep me from encountering them? I've been crying so much this past month that those triggers have been difficult to identify. But I have identified three.

The first trigger has to do with when people show kindness to Lucas. This has happened on many occasions. His cousin, Robert, from Elk Grove was playing Transformers with him on the day of the burial and funeral service. The next day, Lucas asked me if he could play with Robert again. So Robert and his family (my cousin Bryan's family) came over for a few hours. Upon leaving to go back home, Robert decided that he wanted to give Lucas one of his Transformers named "Blackout". It was such a beautiful gesture of kindness. I was moved to tears. On another occasion, Midi's cousins were over for dinner. As the evening drew to a close, they told me of their plans to watch over Lucas throughout his childhood and into his young adult life. I was moved to tears. Many others have showered Lucas with love in many forms.

I think that there are two reasons why others' kindness to Lucas triggers tears. First is that kindness is of God. It is a beautiful thing to give to one who does not have the automatic reaction of reciprocity. Even more beautiful to give to one who cannot pay you back. Secondly, kindness to Lucas, especially provision for his future, makes me sad because it triggers thoughts of Nathan. I think of how Nathan's life was cut short and how we were all robbed of his future. I know that I must learn how to celebrate Lucas and all of his accomplishments and milestones without it triggering thoughts of how Nathan did not have a chance to reach those same milestones. I don't want Lucas to feel that he is incomplete in any way or to feel guilty because he is here and Nathan is not. This is something that I must reflect on much more.

The second thing that triggers grief for me is when I see others around me grieving their own sense of loss. Midi and Nathan were loved by so many. Everyone around me is hurting. That is not to say that I don't want others to cry or express grief when they are around me. Like I said before, we walk through this together. It is healthy for us to grieve together. It feels especially painful when I see Lucas suffering. While I am glad that he is expressing his grief from time to time and not bottling it inside, it still hurts me so much to see my boy suffering.

The third trigger is visual images of Midi and Nathan. I have so many pictures of them, especially of Nathan. My computer wallpaper is a photo of Lucas and Nathan wrestling and laughing. My cell phone's wallpaper is a photo of the boys playing. My house is filled with family photos, baby photos, vacation photos, wedding of happiness. And though I haven't returned to work yet, my walls at work are covered with pictures of my sons. Every year I had a T.A. make a photo collage of Lucas and Nathan for me. I have three beautiful collages of them in my classroom. One showing them from birth to 1, another showing them from 1 to 2, and the other showing them from 2 to 3. I cherish all of these photos.

Today at Fountain of Life, we celebrated our 1 year anniversary as a church. It was a wonderful time of celebration, but it was also a very difficult time for me. At the end of the service, we watched a video which highlighted the most important moments in our young church. We celebrated our family center. We celebrated our outreach. We celebrated those who have come to faith this year. We celebrated our different ministries and all the people that they have blessed. Then we mourned together as we remembered Midi and Nathan. It was the first time since the tragedy that I have seen video of them. Video is so much harder than just photos. Video captures movement and expressions. It is a much closer image of life. I saw my little boy Nathan playing baseball with me. I saw him moving. I saw the sun on his face. I saw him standing with his brother. And I saw my beautiful Midi teaching my children and other children about God. Oh how I miss them!

Midi and I bought a video recorder when the boys were born. I have many tapes, mostly of Lucas and Nathan growing up. I don't think I am ready to watch these. But I know that they are a treasure. Someday I will watch them. It's just too painful right now.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Lucas' Coping

Midi was pronounced dead on January 1st around 9PM. Nathan was pronounced dead at a little before 7AM on January 2nd. A few hours after Nathan died, I had a talk with Lucas. I asked him if he remembered that we were in a car accident. He said yes. Then I told him that because of the accident, we (Lucas and Papa) were a little hurt, but that we would be OK. And I told him that Ohmma (Mommy) and Nathan were hurt a lot and that they died. I told Lucas that we would not see them again. He then asked me if they were with Jesus. I told him yes. And I told him that in heaven they were not hurt anymore. I have no idea how he knew that they were with Jesus. We had not ever talked about death or heaven with him. Maybe someone did prior to my talk with him. But regardless, he seemed to accept that he wouldn't see them again.

For the first 27 days after the tragedy, Lucas did not weep over the loss of his mother and his twin brother. He observed everyone around him weeping. Whenever he saw me cry, I would explain to him that I was sad and that I missed Ohmma and Nathan very much. And I would ask him if he also missed them. When I would tell him that I am "very sad" he would say that he was only "a little sad". When I would tell him that I missed them "very much" he would say that he only missed them "a little bit". He would also sometimes try to avoid talking about it by acting silly. Sometimes he would even say cheerfully, "When I die, I'm going to see Ohmma and Nathan again." I was so amazed at how well he seemed to be coping. It seemed that he had moved on and that he fully accepted their absence. (In retrospect, it is obvious that he was using avoidance as a coping mechanism.)

But on January 29th grief broke through. Our friend Joe G. came over to play with him for a couple of hours while I went to see his therapist. Joe left about 5 minutes before I got home. When I got home, Lucas was crying inconsolably...the kind of crying where a child struggles to breathe. I immediately comforted him and he settled down some. A few minutes later, I took him to the bathroom where he continued to whimper and cry. I then asked him if he was sad because he missed Ohmma and Nathan. He nodded and immediately started sobbing like I've never seen him sob before. It broke all of our (Midi's parents were also there) hearts and we cried with him. He was finally able to express his grief and share it with us. While heartbroken, I also was relieved and grateful. For in the meeting with his therapist, she had expressed that one of her hopes was that Lucas would be able to express his grief with me.

Since that day, Lucas has shared with me two other times that he misses Ohmma and Nathan. It is so difficult to know what is going on for a child. I know that this loss will affect him in every stage of his life. While every parent should always concern themselves with the emotional health of their child, I feel an especially heavy burden for Lucas. This heavy burden, however, is my privilege. I will gladly suffer with my son. I'm so glad that his healing has begun. But Lucas has lost more than any of us, including me. He lost his mother and he lost his twin brother, his best friend. For Lucas' whole life prior to the tragedy, he was always with Nathan. I think they may have spent a total of a few hours in their four years of life (plus 35 weeks in the womb) apart from each other. So I think Lucas' healing is the most difficult. Yet I have hope that Lucas will heal completely.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Loss for Generations

I'm not a dreamer. Never have been. I also tend not to dwell on the past. I'm a pretty present-minded guy. This has its advantages and disadvantages. But as far as the future is concerned, there is just one image that I had before the accident that always made me happy to think about. I would imagine being in my late 60's/early 70's alongside my beautiful wife with our house full of our children and grandchildren. My whole life, I've been going to my grandparents' house on Saturdays. Almost every weekend I would see my grandparents, parents, sister, aunts, uncles, cousins, niece, nephew. Saturday has always been a day for family and extended family. And so I suppose it is natural that the one dream/vision that I've had of the future is that someday I would be the grandpa and that my sons Nathan and Lucas would marry some nice girls and have children, my grandchildren. Midi and I were also in the process of expanding our family. We submitted an application to adopt a girl from Korea. We were expecting to meet her sometime around the end of 2009. And so my dream included my daughter and her husband and their children, my grandchildren. And Midi and I were not closed to the idea of having more children.

It dawned on me about a little over a week after I lost Midi and Nathan that I lost even more than them. I lost a daughter, the daughter I was expecting to start being a daddy for in 2009. Maybe I lost more children. And I lost a daughter-in-law, a son-in-law, and who knows how many grandchildren.

And this means that Midi's parents and my parents, and everyone who feels the loss of Midi and Nathan from their lives lost so much more as well. My poor Lucas lost his mother and his twin brother...and so much more. I grieve so much when I think about these things.

But we are not meant to live in the future. The future (except for the promise of salvation) is uncertain. I remember when I read "The Screwtape Letters" by C.S. Lewis being struck by this idea. The past is dead. We can and should learn from it, but we should not dwell on it, living our life in regrets and what ifs. The future doesn't exist. So we shouldn't be wrapped up in it either. We cannot control the future, as much as we'd like to. I knew this before the tragedy. I know this ever so clearly now. Satan (yes, I believe he is real) wants us to live in the past or the future as much as possible. The present is where we can experience God, where we can be touched by His grace.

I have enough grief and loss to experience in the present. And so I must let go of this phantom future that I dreamed about. I still have hope for the future, but now I don't think about the details of what that future will look like.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Pain is Constant

It has been 25 days since the tragedy. I don't want to call it just an "accident" because it was so much more. Physically, the doctors told me that my cracked ribs (I have three) will heal in about six to eight weeks. That seems about right. They feel about half healed. I still feel constant discomfort. Little things like picking up Lucas,turning over in bed, or just sitting in a car occasionally cause slight pain, but it's not too bad. As for Lucas, he suffered some whiplash. He seems to be getting better as he is able to turn his head more, but he definitely is cautious about his neck. When he turns to look at something he still favors turning his entire body keeping his neck still, rather than just turning his head. Some of that may be psychological. He has to learn to trust his neck again.

I have so much to say. I know a blog is out there for everybody to see, but that's OK. I've always been a pretty transparent person for those who know me well. No guile. I guess the weirdest thing is that I have students, past and present, who will get to know a completely different part of me that I have not revealed in the classroom. That's OK, too. I have nothing to hide and nothing to be ashamed about. I guess this blog thing will be like a journal. I hope that it will also be like a conversation. If you out there have something you'd like to say, then feel free to comment. Someday, Lucas will be able to read what I wrote. I hope this blesses him.

There are two things that I want to post tonight. The first is about some wisdom that I received from my friend, Chris. About a week after I returned home from the hospital, I was sitting in my office (Lucas' playroom) with my Barbarian brothers (more on that some other time) just talking and Chris spoke a very simple yet profound truth. He told me that there are two paths that I can choose: pain with despair or pain with hope. No matter what, pain is constant. Since the tragedy, I have chosen pain with hope. Though I am suffering and grieving intensely, I have also been filled with a peace that can only be supernatural, not from my own will power. A peace that can only be provided by the Holy Spirit. I have cried out to God and He has met me in my darkest moments. Praise God. I feel that He is going through this with me. He has not left me. I am not despairing.

Second, many of you have said that you are here for me and Lucas. I thank you. The support I've had has been tremendous. I am so rich when it comes to the things that last, loving relationships. What I wanted to say to all of you is that as you are here for me, I am here for you also. This may sound weird considering that I have lost my wife and my son. But you are experiencing loss also. I am not the only one suffering. We walk through this season of pain together.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

It's me

Hello everyone. I've decided to start a blog for two reasons. First, I think it will be good for me to write. Writing will help me reflect which I think is a big part of my healing process after losing Midi and Nathan. Second, I think that there are many of you out there who would like to know how Lucas and I are doing. This will be an easy way for you to keep up with us. I don't know how often I will write. I'm sure it will vacillate. Anyway, that is all for now. I have many thoughts that will surface soon.