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Happy Birthday Angel Jessica

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Today our Jessica Ann would be 25 years old.  Jessica is our 2nd oldest child next to Jeremy Moffitt who is 29.  Today is also the 14th anniversary of the World Trade Center twin towers being attacked.  I remember both events as if it were yesterday.  I remember Jessica taking her last breath on August 5th 2001 at approximately 2 am.  I remember telling her that it was ok to quit fighting and to let go.  Jessica Ann slipped from the bonds of her cancer ridden body into the arms of Jesus in that moment.  It is our hope and belief that we will see her again along with other loved ones when we leave this life and move on to the next one.

It has been said that time heals all wounds.  I would say that time allows us the opportunity to learn how to deal with the pain and grief of losing a loved one.  Time gives us a measuring stick for our perception of the pain and feeling of loss that comes with grief.  One does not simply “get over it”.  If you are a friend or family of someone that has lost a loved one please do not make the mistake of expecting them to just “get over it”.  Grief is something that becomes a constant companion.  Over time, the pain does subside and get easier to deal with but it never totally goes away.

Today, my heart goes out to the family and friends of the 3000+ souls that lost their lives in the terrorist attack in New York City on this date in 2011.  Terrorists (aka cowards) hijacked 3 jet liners and intentionally flew them into both of the World Trade Center towers and attempted to fly into the Pentagon.  Someone said that 9/11 is the “Pearl Harbor” of my generation.   I will never forget where we were when this happened.  A neighbor called me and told me to turn on the TV and watch the news.  We sat in our living room and watched in horror as the World Trade Center buildings burned and then collapsed one after the other.  We watched as the second plane hit the second tower while the first one burned.  I remember how surreal it was to watch the 110 floor towers just collapse into the ground while millions of viewers watched in disbelief.

My heart goes out to the families and friends of the public servants who rushed to the scene to help people and ultimately paid the highest price for doing so.  Police officers and fire fighters who were trying to help victims lost their own lives on that horrible day.  This is a day that Americans came face to face with radical Islam and their act of cowardly terror.  I know that the pain of the event was and is intense for most of us.  It would be so easy to categorize all Muslim people as terrorists but I realize that is not fair.  That would be like saying that all Christians are willing to kill innocent people in the name of God.

The problem with terrorism and war is that innocent people including women and children lost their lives.  I guess that our government calls this loss of life as collateral damage.  I do not pretend to fully understand all of this.  I just know that people were going about their day to day business in the World Trade center towers and that it was forever interrupted by a cowardly act by terrorists and now they get to live with the grief.  Our thoughts and prayers go out to the survivors.  May they find some sort of release from their pain and find the courage to go on despite their losses.

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25 years of marriage as of May 12th

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As of May 12th Katy Moffitt and I celebrated 25 years of marriage.  That is right, back in 1990 we stood in a Baptist church in Houston Texas and before God, friends and family we vowed to be husband and wife no matter what.  For better or worse both in sickness and health.  To round out our vows we privately added a coffin clause.  The only way out of this marriage is if you are in your coffin.

Over the last 25 years we have known or seen many different marriages which have wound up in divorce court.  Marriage takes a lot of work, love, tears and commitment.  A commitment to do whatever it takes to make the marriage work.  Marriage takes love, patience, communications and lots of forgiveness.  Despite our best efforts it is almost impossible to change the other person.  When we get married we can easily fall into the trap that if we love someone enough that we can change the person to be who we want them to be. 

Katy and I have faced our fair share of ups and downs.  Some of the challenges that we have faced would have been catastrophic and would have ended most marriages.  I still remember our first premarital marriage counseling sessions.  Katy and I met an older couple out in Sugarland Texas at their home and shared a dinner.  We had a nice chat during dinner and then the genders split up and went to different parts of the house.  After it was all said and done Katy and I were amazed to learn that we would never have a successful marriage. 

The marriage counselors identified some things that were probable pit falls that would prove to be more than we could handle even if we were in love at that time.  Katy comes from a family that had to deal with alcoholism.  I came from a really messed up home life as a child.  I still remember the man stating that he could tell that “ I had been through some pretty rough spots” up until that point.  We were told that because of our past that I would never be willing to be in the relationship for the long haul and that if I did leave Katy she would wind up being an alcoholic. 

I am glad that Katy and I did not buy into that negative crap.  I grant you that these people were older and wiser than us and they could see some potential problems if we had allowed this to happen.  Katy and I discussed those things and decided that together and with the help of God we would be able to overcome them. 

As I look back over the last 25 years I can see several things that have required us to lean on each other and our faith in God in order to remain steadfast to our wedding vows.  I still do not understand how people can weather the storms of life without a faith in God.  I know that some folks do not understand faith and they view those of us with faith as weak people who are in need of some sort of fairy tale figure in our lives to run to when times get tough.  

One of the things that we seem to have always had to deal with are the financial struggles.  Nothing will destroy a marriage faster than financial stress or one or both spouses being unfaithful.  Looking back over the last 25 years I can see that while things have been a bit shaky at times with regards to finances our needs were always met somehow.  We always had a roof over our heads, food to eat and clothes to wear. It did not help that we made some stupid decisions along the way early on.  We suffered from the “I wants”, and decided that we would rather have it now and pay later.  What the credit card industry and marketers do not tell you is that paying later means you will pay dearly for the privilege of having things that you do not need quicker.  Katy always told me that she did not marry me for my money (or lack thereof) and I did not marry her for her cooking skills.  Luckily for us those areas have gotten much better over the years. 

Over the last 25 years we have lived through different seasons.  We lived through the honeymoon stage and entered parenthood with 3 children.  Jessica, Kristina and Justin Moffitt were born to us.  I have a son named Jeremy who was from a previous marriage.  The children went from being toddlers to adolescents to adults in what seems to be the blink of an eye. During this time we experienced the typical things that most families experience with 3 children.  We had our fair share of emergency room visits and hospital scares. 

I remember when we lived in Atlanta Georgia and I worked for Delta Airlines as a contractor.  Justin fell out of a 2 story window and banged his arm and head on the patio.  We rushed him to the ER and we got a lecture from a DSS worker who was concerned that we did not call an ambulance much less let our son fall out of a window.  It is tough to watch your children have to endure pain and suffering and not have the ability to keep them from that. 

I also remember when our Jessica Ann, when she was 10 years old, started to have blinding head aches and other neurological symptoms such as being dizzy and not being able to keep food down.  We found out that she had a baseball sized tumor in her head.  Emergency surgery removed 95% of the tumor but the rest of it that was wrapped around her brain stem would eventually kill her. The doctors gave Jessica Ann 12 months to live and 14 months later she went to heaven. 

I remember sitting at MUSC Childrens hospital with the team of doctors and our pastor.  We were told that she only had one option left but it was harsh and it could possibly kill her quicker than the cancer.  A bone marrow transplant would be performed and she would be in the hospital for 6 weeks while she was isolated from others to keep her from getting infections.  There was no promise that this would work even if we decided to go that direction.  I remember talking to Jessica at the tender age of ten and telling her what the options were.  I remember how she looked and reacted when what we told her sunk in.  She decided that she wanted to go home and not try the bone marrow transplant. 

That 14 months that we lived out as a family back in 2000 and 2001 was the hardest 14 months on our family. I have been told by the medical community that most families that lose a child to cancer typically wind up destroyed and scattered to the winds and in divorce court.  I remember when Jessica Ann died and the funeral director in Goose Creek told me that the statistics showed that we would be divorced within a year.  I remember how angry that made me and I remember telling that man that I rejected that idea.  We would not wind up in divorce court over this.  We would dig in and do whatever we could to survive this event. 

That was 14 years ago in August.   Our family was not destroyed but it certainly was impacted in a negative way.  None of us have been the same since that day we lost our Jessica Ann.  I am proud that Katy and I were able to hold things together and work through all of those things and that our marriage survived despite all odds.  I would also state that this season of our life was probably the one thing that did shake my faith in God down to the very foundation.  

Now we are empty nesters.  Justin lives in downtown Charleston with his girlfriend and Kristina lives in Oregon.  I guess you could say that we are in the last season of our lives.  We are sliding into our golden years and second childhood.  We are both in our 50’s and while we would like to think that we are in our middle years neither of us expect to live another 50 years.  I suppose that none of us know when our lives will end.  We have to live our lives one day at a time and leave all of the eternal issues up to our God and creator who created us and the world we live in. 

I am so very blessed to be married to my Gizmo.  Katy has been my best friend for the last 25 years. I remember sitting at First Baptist church in Houston Texas and telling Katy that we would only be friends.  I remember how that made her cry.  I guess that God had shown her that I was her husband before he told me.  I remember saying that I would never marry again until I saw a burning bush in the middle of I-10 at noon time.  Apparently there was a burning bush (or car) at some point because Katy chased my heart down and captured it.  There have been no regrets and no looking back.  I am glad that I am married to my Katy and I am looking forward to us growing old together. 

I am a better man because of Katy.  Katy has always been the most selfless person I have ever known.  Katy is also the most faithful person I know with regards to her faith in God.  Katy has a quiet faith that is very strong.   Katy has always believed in me even when I did not believe in myself.  Katy has taught me how to be more selfless and more loving of other people.   I really am not sure how she has put up with me for all of these years but she has.  I believe that makes her a saint.

 

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6 Things to Never Say to a Bereaved Parent – Still Standing Magazine

6 Things to Never Say to a Bereaved Parent – Still Standing Magazine.

Nothing hits closer to home than the loss of a child.  We lost our Jessica Ann back on August 5, 2001 and I still remember her last breath as if it were yesterday.  I can now say that after 13 years of walking with the pain of her loss that the rawness of the event has diminished.  I will never “get over it” because that event defined who we were as a family and we have been changed forever.  Jessica was a bright ray of sunshine that could light up a room with her smile and left a mark on everyone who was close to her.  I will never get over that.  I chose to bask in the memory of that smile and her saying “Oh daddy!” when I would make her laugh.  Those are some of the happy memories that I have.  Please read this article and remember what it says the next time you are hanging out with someone who has lost a child.  Share it with your friends and family so they will know what to say or not say.

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