"…for wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her." (Proverbs 8:11)
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A Rescue Mission

Appearances can be deceiving. The photo that popped up today in my Facebook Memories looks like a man on vacation. Happy. Relaxed. Content.

But, we were not on vacation. We were on a rescue mission. The poolside hammock in Campeche, Mexico was a trauma ward gurney. Craig was sick, and we were desperate to get him well.

In the preceding weeks, we had gone to great lengths to extricate ourselves and our business from a lucrative client relationship. We’d hired expensive attorneys to ensure that we weren’t in breach of contract. We willingly turned over our crew and our operations, desperate to pull Craig out of the field as quickly as possible. The work didn’t matter. The money didn’t matter. We needed to save him. Craig wanted to live.

He hadn’t slept more than three hours a night for months, continually ripped from his slumber by horrifying nightmares or debilitating muscle cramps. He likely was malnourished as a result of a limited diet while working six days a week in the north Texas plains, combined with rewired plumbing from a gastric bypass years prior. Only after his death would I learn about the connection between vitamin deficiency and brain function. Take your B12, my friends.

We fled to our favorite city in Mexico with dreams of buying a house and starting fresh. We imagined a slower pace and a home for ministry and fellowship. But Campeche was hot in June, and we hadn’t anticipated the afternoon storms. Our previous visits had been in January and April, when you could spend leisurely days strolling through cobblestone streets in the historic city center. On this trip, we limited our walks to early morning and sought refuge indoors to wait out the stifling humidity and mid-day rains. The excursion was not without its high points, of course. We ate well and visited with friends and created cherished memories. But the elements seemed to conspire against us, and our efforts at relaxation felt forced. We continued to fight an unseen foe as we returned home to Texas.

Still, we kept fighting. We railed against the darkness side-by-side. And we experienced noteworthy victories. I learned to be more patient, to demonstrate grace, and to humbly ask forgiveness the many times that I failed. Craig’s friends rallied around him with encouragement and prayers, often spending hours with him on the phone. Craig even slept through the night once or twice.

We also discovered that his physical and mental exhaustion had deep roots. Memories of childhood trauma emerged from the recesses of his mind. The lucrative-yet-taxing client project had filled our coffers, but also pried open a Pandora’s Box of pain that needed to be addressed. Craig’s counselor was compassionate, our pastor supportive, his doctor pragmatic. The consensus was for him to start on antidepressants, at least for a short season. I hated the idea but wanted to honor Craig’s decision. He hated the idea but was desperate for relief.

Four days after starting the prescription, he was gone.

Craig had been on the same medication before, years earlier. But he was 40 pounds heavier then, and his body chemistry was different. He wasn’t malnourished, sleep deprived, or starved for serotonin. And, although we were aware of the potential side effects, reading the prescribing information from the FDA months after his passing was a kick in the gut:

“Suicide is a known risk of depression and certain other psychiatric disorders, and these disorders themselves are the strongest predictors of suicide. There has been a long-standing concern, however, that antidepressants may have a role in inducing worsening of depression and the emergence of suicidality in certain patients during the early phases of treatment.”

The next page states in bold letters:

“All patients being treated with antidepressants for any indication should be monitored appropriately and observed closely for clinical worsening, suicidality, and unusual changes in behavior, especially during the initial few months of a course of drug therapy, or at times of dose changes, either increases or decreases.”

Monitoring. Close observance. I can so easily question whether I did enough. Whether I should have canceled my lunch plans the day he passed. Whether I missed any warning signs.

But, it was a good day. Craig took an hour-long power walk in the morning, because he knew exercise could increase serotonin in the brain. (You don’t exercise when you’re planning to die.) He finished writing an essay about sonship and emailed it to a new mentor in the faith. He journaled that morning about feeling encouraged after a phone call with a friend who had a potential job lead. And the day before, Craig had scheduled three more appointments with his counselor.

The man in the hammock wanted to live. He loved life. He loved people. Seeing the photo in my social media feed left me momentarily crippled, sobbing at the kitchen table. But, then, I decided to write. Love demands action. People need hope.

Sometimes, the chemotherapy doesn’t cure the cancer. Sometimes it does. Everyone struggles with depression at one time or another, or knows someone who has battled those demons. The ultimate cure is love. If you are struggling today, know that you are worth fighting for. Know that we are in this fight together. Craig was a valiant warrior and mighty man of God. He never gave up the fight, and neither will I. Neither should you. Take to heart today his words of exhortation:

“Rise up. Do not quit before the miracle happens.”

© 2020 Leslie J. Thompson. All Rights Reserved.

I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord
    in the land of the living!
Wait for the Lord;
    be strong, and let your heart take courage;
    wait for the Lord!

PSALM 27:13-14 (ESV)

June 13, 2020   1 Comment

An (Almost) Perfect Walk

I was prepared for battle this morning. Sunglasses. Handkerchief. Cell phone fully charged. I expected pain. I expected warfare. I expected to revisit a place of suffering and toil.

Instead, I took a walk.

I knew I was going for a walk, of course. But, this was a meaningful walk, and the decision to go had been weighty. This morning was my first time walking to the park a half mile from our house—the park that Craig and I walked to together at least a dozen times in the weeks before he died last summer. The park where he sat on a bench in the shade and recorded a four-minute video in which he poured out his heart, begging viewers to stand strong against the lies of the enemy. A spirit of suicide was sweeping the nation, taking out notable figures like Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, along with thousands of teenagers and adults who had succumbed to depression. Craig was wrestling with it, as well, and our daily power walk was a weapon in his arsenal. Exercise releases endorphins, reducing the perception of pain. We had a plan. We could beat this.

Four weeks later, Craig lost the fight. And, I stopped going to the park.

I always loved to walk. I spent part of my youth in Germany and a decade in Manhattan; walking for me was a way of life. It felt as natural as breathing, and almost as necessary. The first year of our marriage, Craig and I took early morning walks around the golf course near our apartment complex, sharing thoughts and dreams as we became more closely knit as a couple. Walking was good exercise, but for me, it was about connection. Those walks fueled my love for my husband and refreshed my soul.

After we moved to our house, we rarely walked together. Occasionally, Craig would join me to take the dog around the block, or humor me by strolling through a street fair. I could trick him into walking when we went to Six Flags or traveled on vacation. But for the most part, walking was my thing, not his. So, I was pleasantly surprised last spring when he asked me for a suggested route to walk for 45 minutes. Two laps through the back alleys around our neighborhood and one time around the inner loop would do the trick, I replied, then realized just how mundane that path would be. Craig looked dismayed. “Or, you could walk to the park and do a loop around the trails. That’s probably 45 minutes there and back,” I said.

He set out the next morning on his own, returning home drenched in sweat. The following day, he was off again, strengthening muscles, building a routine. I was envious. After the first week, I asked whether I could join him. Sure, he said. What for him felt strenuous was for me pure bliss. Walking with my husband—my favorite person of all time. He stayed laser focused on keeping a brisk pace. I focused on speaking life over him, reminding him of his calling and God’s promises. We were in the fight together, us against the world.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV)

I thought about the park several times after Craig passed. How much I loved being out in nature, breathing the fresh air. I thought about keeping up the routine but always found an excuse. The late summer was too hot, I was traveling in the fall, and winter was cold and dreary.

But now, it’s spring. Birds are chirping. Everything is green. I had nothing on my calendar. Today was the perfect day for a walk in the park.

I wore my sunglasses as I left the house, and the tears came quickly. They trickled down my cheeks as I turned left onto the main road. The first two blocks slope downhill, and gravity propelled me along. Dogs barked behind fences. A crow swooped low overhead. I sang softly to myself as I walked, settling my mind, picking up details. The world was in Technicolor.

As I neared the park, I could see people gathered around a canopy tent by the tree line. Hundreds of plastic eggs were strewn across the grass nearby. Tomorrow is Easter Sunday, and families were there to celebrate. The children paced in anticipation, baskets at the ready, eyeing their bounty. They were waiting for permission to run. So was I.

I kept bracing for the pain, anticipating grief. But, it never came. Instead, I was captivated by the beautiful scenery and the bright sunshine and the cool breeze. The trails were empty, the atmosphere serene. I couldn’t help myself—I was happy. Halfway around the loop, I decided to embrace the joy. What a spectacular morning. Perfect weather, and the perfect day for a walk. I wished Craig was with me, but I knew my Husband was there. Jesus was right by my side. How else could I explain the peace in my soul?

You will forget the shame of your youth and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood. For your Maker is your Husband–the Lord Almighty is His name

Isaiah 55:4b-5a

Whether I will make a walk to the park part of my daily routine remains to be seen. What I know for certain, however, is that I never walk alone. I am grateful for God’s unfailing love, and for the comforting arms of my Savior. Jesus spent three days in the tomb—Scripture tells us that He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. He is not afraid to walk with us through seasons of darkness. And, He walks us back out. The same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead lives in me.

Today, I took a walk. Tomorrow is resurrection day.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven

Ecclesiastes 3:1

April 20, 2019   3 Comments