Tuesday, February 9, 2016

5 YEARS . . . 2.11.2011 - 2.11.2016
by Kelly Hamill Petty

(EDITOR'S NOTE: The author originally posted this to her Facebook page on Feb. 9. She has graciously consented to Texas Baptists Committed's request to republish it here.

Kelly Hamill Petty was married to John Petty for 19-1/2 years until his death on February 11, 2011. Today Kelly is a special education teacher in Montgomery, Texas. Their son, Truett Davis Petty, is 18 and hopes to enter Baylor University in the fall of 2016; their daughter, Mara Hamill Petty, is 10 and in 4th grade. At the time of his death, John Petty was pastor of Trinity Baptist Church, Kerrville, Texas. John was the youngest person to ever serve as chair of the Executive Board of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, a longtime member of the Texas Baptists Committed Board of Directors, and a treasured friend to me and many others throughout Texas Baptist life. - Bill Jones)

Today marks 5 years since John left the house. February 11th marks 5 years since John's death. 5 years is a mark in time on a calendar that really stands out. On the day that I found out that he was gone, somewhere in my confused mixed up mind . . . I said to myself . . . Will we even make it 5 years? Where will we be in 5 years? I have no idea why 5 years was the pick of the moment.

So here I sit . . . on this day that I never thought I would see – because in days like those you are doing life minute by minute, and that 5-year mark seemed a lifetime away.

I want you to know that I have made it to that 5-year mark. I have traveled the journey of deep grief and deep soul-growing moments all at the same time – such a paradox. Paradox = a statement or proposition that seems self-contradictory or absurd but in reality expresses a possible truth. I have learned so much in the last 5 years. And yes, I have survived.

You learn lifetime lessons that can be taught only by traveling the road. So I share some of my lessons.
To be real through it all is the best. 
Tears are definitely cleansing to your soul. 
We are called to be open and vulnerable in order to help those who come behind us and are hurting. 
To rely on people and ask for help. 
To have gratitude . . . because you realize you took things for granted before. 
You learn to be strong and have courage even when you are weak – for healers don't lack courage.
Things don’t matter – relationships do. 
Suicide is not a sin. 
Depression and anxiety are diseases just like heart disease and cancer . . . they make the mind sick.
That even the strongest who have the will to survive . . . can fight only so long . . . and sometimes the disease wins out.
The evil one targets the generals.
You find strength that you didn't realize you have.
Nature, music, art, and writing are healing.
Being physically present is more important than saying anything to those who have lost loved ones.
You realize memories are your true treasures and your lifeline. 
You are grateful that the person you are mourning chose to do life with you.
Life is good even in the tough times, for those who love deeply and invest in lives . . . grieve more deeply.
You can find peace and joy in the midst of the pain – a paradox in itself.
Forgiveness is freeing.
You doubt your faith and God . . . and I have found out that that is okay. 
You are not the same you . . . you will be a different you. 
You realize what is really important in life. 
You realize the simple things are beautiful.
The person that is gone is still a part of you and inside you – you must share that.
Rejoice in the days that you had . . . for some don't get those days. 
Grief will ebb and flow and become less and less. 
The Grief Monster stays with you. You learn instead of letting it manage you . . .  you learn how to manage it. 
You realize all you have is God and how you wished you had spent this much time with him before. 
Grace is a beautiful thing.
You will choose life again.
You will dream of the day you will sit at the table with your loved one again and there will be no more pain.
You realize that Heaven is closer than we all think. The distance between this world and the next is not as far as we might think. The wall between the two is not as thick as we might imagine. There are times when we can sense that one of those loved ones who have gone ahead is very near to encourage us on in this life.
And I guess it comes down to this . . . that any kind of struggle and loss hurts because we love something or someone else more than we love ourselves. It is our humanness.

Then after you have traveled through the birth of the struggle or the loss and all of the sadness that goes with it, one day you will begin to see a flicker of light that says I think I am going to make it this minute, today, this week, this month and before you know it, it will be years – 5 YEARS. You will look back at what you have come through and realize what you have gained in the process. For grief is never wasted.

For those of you who are struggling with any kind of loss . . . You will survive your tough days . . . and you will do life again. How you do that is up to you, your choice  will you be bitter or will you be better?

We have found life again . . . in a new and different way. We have found joy again, and John walks with us everyday. Live everything. So go and live.

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