when you meet people like us | guest post from Christina

This is a guest post from my sister, Christina. She has good things to say and I’m glad to have her say them here. Read this if you don’t know what to say to someone who is hurting or read this because you want to understand our hurt a little better. 


Caroline, as I’ve said, is the wordsmith.  So much so, that while greeting people at the visitation, I accidentally received many compliments for her beautiful writing, by people who hugged me while saying some version of , “Oh Caroline, I’m so sorry!  And you’re such a beautiful writer!” and I hugged them back, “Oh, you are sweet! But I’m Christina!”

But grief is this weird thing, this weird thing that completely takes over your personality and your world, and you start thinking, “Hey, whatever works.”  Maybe this whole “writing out your thoughts thing and publishing them to the world” helps.  Too many quotes? That’s just the kind of classiness that you get with this brown haired sister.  My beloved sister-in-law and I were talking the other day and I mentioned that I was going to write a blog entitled ‘World’s Least Spiritual Griever.’  This is that blog.

A portion of you who read this blog don’t know us, or at least don’t know us well. And some of you we consider ‘our people’ and you are struggling to love us through this. This post is for both of those groups.  For those of you who don’t know us, read this and keep it in your back pocket for when you meet people like us, people drowning in a sea of sorrow and grief.  For those of you who know us well, the ones we consider ‘our people,’ this is for you too.

To our people: We’re sorry for being weird.  For not calling or texting you back.  For zoning out when we’re talking with you.  For probably waiting too long to send you a thank you for the home-cooked meal you brought over to our homes.  For ruining our conversation with you with our new-found perspective, trying in the softest of ways to let you know that your problem isn’t a real problem, because in your problem everyone is still alive.  We’re sorry that our emotions, the things that upset us, and our demeanor change a million miles a minute. We’re sorry that we won’t commit to plans. We’re sorry that there are only a few people that we can tell the whole story to (because re-living the worst minute/hour/day of your life is something you just can’t do very often). We’re sorry that it’s hard to engage with us, even though you clearly love us very much.

And the things that are probably just me… I’m sorry I almost passed out on my porch when you brought me a meal last night.  I’m sorry I can’t stop apologizing for this new personality that is so radically different than my old one.

We can’t explain why all these things are true, and it’s hard for us to not know when we’ll feel ‘better.’ But I’m afraid it’s going to be a long time.  And that terrifies me.

If you want to help:  Even making this list makes me feel like such a needy person, such a diva.  “Here are the things I need, please do them!” But I have to believe that there are a few people who truly are ‘in this’ with us, awful as it is here, in this place. Assuming I’m correct, this is a list for these people.

Friends, please let us talk about him, and what happened.  Please don’t avoid us because you aren’t sure what to do.  If you are not sure what to do or what to say, can I make a few (more) suggestions?
“How are you doing/ feeling today?”
“This is terrible. I’m so sorry.”
“Sometime I’d love to hear about William”
“What’s one thing I can do to help you/ love you today?”

Let us feel happy and joyful when we have those moments and act normal around us, but gentle.

Let us tell you stories about him and our life with him and make us feel safe doing this, like it’s not weirding you out to hear about this thing that happened, or about him. He was an incredible man (the best I’ve ever known, honestly,) and one of my favorite people in this whole world. I like talking about him.

Invite us to things but don’t be offended when we don’t come. Text us and don’t be offended when we don’t text back.  Call us but don’t be offended when we let it go to voicemail.

Have I mentioned that (if you are close to us) please please ask how we’re doing, and ask about Will? Of course, don’t ask these questions as you quickly pass by.  That’s the worst.

You know what else you could do?  If you really want to step inside this dark cave of terribleness with us? Read about grief a little.  C.S. Lewis’ book ‘A Grief Observed” is incredible.  Lament for a Son by Nicholas Wolterstorff‎ is also a perfect depiction of grief.

Crazy, unhelpful things sometimes burst out of people’s mouths.  We have tons of grace for this… sometimes.  Flippant comments about different things making it ‘worth it’ or different reasons why we should be thankful, those are tough to hear, because we are living in a nightmare and nothing is a fair exchange. Some things you will try with good intent and those things will go very wrong.  But please still try them?

One thing you can assume…

We are not ‘doing well.’ We are not ‘handling it.’ We are not confident of anything right now.  We’re losing it and at least this grieving sister has spent multiple hours in the last week considering vintage motorcycle and/or treehouse tattoos and searching online for girl baby names that start with the letters ‘Will.’

So, that also happened.


Find all the writings on grief at this link and join with us as we mourn in hope.

Will | a remembrance from Christina

This is a guest post from my sister, Christina. This is the remembrance she wrote to share at the Celebration of Life service last Friday. Please know that we are all still available to talk about anything you may have questions about. Also know that the memorial fund established in his name is still accepting donations that will go to three different ministries where his legacy as camp counselor, handyman, and mentor will touch youth with the message of hope in Christ.

Anyone who knows me knows I talk about my brother William like he is a superhero. I think maybe they thought I made him up or was a little overboard in how I spoke of him. The way he could fix any car (in fact, when he moved to CA I was SHOCKED at how much it costs to get your car fixed. Because I’d never paid) the way he’d leap on a sofa and sing and dance to Newsies at the drop of a hat, the way he knew how to do everything. Everything. The way was speaking with Grace a few days ago, and she was telling me how he would speak of me to any who would listen… in much the same way. That I was the real deal, that I really ‘got it’, that he was so proud of who I was and what I was doing. And that meant so much to me, but I wasn’t necessarily surprised. Because as Grace said, “he loved you guys an insane amount.” Anyone who knows any of us knows, that’s true of all of us. We love each other an insane amount.
And so it seemed fitting for us all to share with you some thoughts.
There’s a Phil Wickham song that says “if you’re the sun, I want to be the moon, I want to reflect the light that comes from you.”  And that’s what was true of William. In William’s love for Christ, he was made more like Christ every day, and reflected such wonderful things about Jesus to each of us. In this beautiful transaction of accepting Jesus Christ’s payment for our sins and becoming part of his forever family, we also give him our whole selves. And William gave Jesus his whole self. And Jesus made something wonderful out of his beautiful life. William was a sinner. But through Christ, he lived his life as a forgiven, redeemed man. And every part of his being lived like he was absolutely determined to make the most of it.
Will was someone who loved incredibly well, who seemed almost overtaken with glee to talk to you or be with you after it had been some time. He showed me a picture of the immensity and immeasurability of God’s love. For in his friendship and care, I never felt insecure to ask something of him. In fact, my last 100 or so text messages with him are from car dealerships and while reading craigslist ads, asking for his gracious advice.  That’s what Jesus is like.  His love for us is immeasurable and immense, and we never need to be insecure about asking for or needing that.
Will was committed to and passionate about his marriage to his Grace. He picked an amazing, Godly woman to spend his life with, and they loved each other fiercely and did the hard work of marriage in order to make it great. That’s what Jesus is like. It says in Scripture that Jesus is the groom, and the church is the bride. He loves us fiercely and will not let us go for anything. I have seen this in action in the body of Christ this week.
Once you were important to William, you didn’t fall off this list. And he was your absolute biggest fan.  And that made people, including me, feel infinitely special. To have, to quote Patrick “the coolest guy anybody knows” think you were important, that felt so special. In that, you believed you could do that big thing, you could get that job, you could do better. That’s what Jesus is like. He cleans us up from our sin-filled hearts, and then sees us as clean and lovely! Then he is on our side forever, not only rooting us on but giving us the power we need.
I hate so much having William gone from us. And while I have infinite Will stories, I’m heartbroken that I won’t have more. And I don’t understand God’s plan. BUT. I believe that when William trusted Jesus Christ with his whole life, he gave over the reins of his life to Jesus to do with it, whatever he wanted. I, and we, have done the same. So his life, and mine, they are for God to use however he pleases. And I know that He is good. And that William is now so much more alive than he ever was on earth, finally sin-free and basking in the glory of God.  “We mourn, but not as those who have no hope.” And if you feel like you have no hope in these moments, please talk to one of us on this stage. Something that we keep saying is “William loved his Jesus and his Grace.” And I know without a shadow of a doubt that he would want you to know them both.
And Grace, we love YOU an insane amount. And we will forever.


Find all the writings on grief at this link and join with us as we mourn in hope.

 

Will | a remembrance from Sam

This is a guest post from my brother, Sam. This is the remembrance he wrote to share at the Celebration of Life service last Friday. Please know that we are all still available to talk about anything you may have questions about. Also know that the memorial fund established in his name is still accepting donations that will go to three different ministries where his legacy as camp counselor, handyman, and mentor will live on and touch youth with the message of hope in Christ.


When I left for Michigan to go to college, William was my kid brother.  He was still very much a boy.  The boy that he was, in many ways, is everything I hope my children to be.  Energetic, trusting, hard working, problem solving, up for anything that was William as a boy.  Subconsciously, I think that is who he will always be to me.

The boy that jumped in the back of the car and wrongly trusted me to drive him down the road to feed the cattle.

The boy who took my love for building tree houses to a whole new level (figuratively and literally).

The boy with whom I spent hours of scaring cityfolk at the state fair with the famed spider.

Great stories of our youth aside, today I would much rather tell you about the moments that assured this protective older brother that William was heeding my mother’s daily petition to “remember who we are and who we represent.”  That is to say that he was acutely aware of his legacy as Nichols’ and more importantly our individual and collective identity in Christ.

One such moment was evident in the way he dealt with a bad situation and subsequent football suspension.  Instead of watching from the stands, William decided to practice his 9th grade season knowing that he would not play a down.  His character grew so greatly through that experience as did his willingness, or even desire to hit opposing players and even referees really really hard.  More importantly, his teammates would forever be altered by the strong, quiet leader that emerged from that adversity.

The following year, William visited me in Michigan to attend a Fellowship of Christian Athletes football camp.  While there, he found himself as the one white Iowa boy in a bible study of inner city football players.  On the ride home, we spent three hours discussing the opportunities William had throughout the camp to share his faith through the avenue of football.  This experience noticeably softened his heart to the needs of others while helping him put sports in proper perspective with life and faith.

Later in high school, William’s ability to lead on the field and on the wrestling mat converged with his faith as he built a cabin on our back 40.  I remember William excitedly calling to share how the cabin served as a place where his teammates and friends have clean fun.  William felt so blessed by God to be able to use his natural gifts of building, leading, and getting stuff for free as a means of living out his faith.

As William’s world widened so did his desire to “remember who he was and who he represented.”  During our bi-monthly road talks, I remember being humbled by his desire to know how my wife and I did everything from devotions to finances.  He desired with all of his heart to be Godly husband that Grace needed and deserved and I have always been in awe of his willingness to serve her so selflessly.

That said, what I treasure most about those conversations is the openness with which William was willing to share his struggles and his heart for the people around him.  William knew, better than anyone, that he was a sinner in need of a savior; an imperfect vessel that God was using to do his work.  He believed wholeheartedly in the truth of the gospel and that his hope was in Christ alone.  It is that same hope that enables me to stand here both missing my brother and rejoicing that he now present with and praising our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.


Find all the writings on grief at this link and join with us as we mourn in hope.

Guest Post | Wedding Speech, Take Two

I have been signing things Caroline Kolts for the past week, not that there was a whole lot to sign on our honeymoon in Iceland (check out Patrick on instagram). I have to keep reminding myself that together we make a family, the two of us. These first days of family are like making fresh footprints in untouched winter snow – everything is sparkling with promise and waiting to be discovered, built, and dreamed. We went to church for the first time as Mr. and Mrs. Kolts yesterday and I was overwhelmed to be sitting next to my newly covenanted love and worshipping my First Love.

I will spare you all of my marital bliss-speak and offer instead the sweetest words that my sister insists appear as a guest post. I am more than glad to oblige, because her guest posts always attract more attention than my regular posts and (I’ll admit) I like the traffic. 😉 Actually, I have read and re-read these words since she sent them earlier today and I can’t figure out why I hit the jackpot with such a sister and why she thinks so highly of me. God has blessed me abundantly with her crazy love.

sisters

Caroline is the wordsmith between us.  While she’s weaving words, making landscapes that you feel and experience, I’m working on writing a to-the-point-email that will inspire people to work for me for free, so there’s a difference clearly.

She’s also the cheesy one of us, the one who waxes poetic about our sisterhood.  Whereas I’m the problem-solver, the send-Caroline-random-gifts-giver, the two-words-on-a-card-writer.  Those two words? Love you!  So, a difference there, as well.

But Caroline and Patrick’s wedding made me feel all kinds of cheesy, like there weren’t enough words in a speech to convey the joy welling within, and there wasn’t enough speech time to squeeze in the love I have for them, the slow moving sadness that comes from missing them, and the gratefulness in loving them together and separate, so much.

So, here is my guest blog post.  The speech I wish I would have spoken.  The official unofficial wedding speech, only 2 weeks late.

Caroline.  Your soul is the most beautiful I know, you know me better than anyone and yet are my biggest cheerleader.   My friendship with you makes me think marriage must be ok, that ‘someone knowing everything-ness’ and all.  In a weird way, it is so not weird that you got married before me.  For you have always gone first.  In following Christ, in maturity, in radical hospitality.  At a soul level, I think in some ways we are both the older sister, just in different ways.  Someone told me the other day that they love the way I talk about you, a mixture of awe, respect, and love.  And how could I not? You are exceedingly lovely, and I’ve always been baffled at the male sex due to their failure to realize this and marry you quickly.  But now I realize why it took them so long.  It was always Patrick, who you were meant for.  And the Patrick novel needed more chapters of adventure before the marriage part.  So, male gender, I’ll give you a pass this one time!

I have always been more concerned with who Caroline would marry than she found necessary.   I always had this desire for her to end up with a person who would fit her, wouldn’t stifle her, wouldn’t try to get her to calm down, settle down, and stop dreaming crazy dreams. Someone who would bring out the hilarious side I see, and reassure her of its validity in the world, that her creating laughter is just as important as creating ponderous thoughts.  And, selfishly, I thought her marrying someone that was ‘ok’ would make our time odd or strained, or worst case scenario, that there would be less of it.

But Patrick. Patrick who’s always been around in the best of ways, always been Caroline’s best fit, the moment just waiting to be right so all those puzzle pieces would fall into place.  I told Caroline at William’s wedding, “He just needs to be in our family.  Why don’t you just marry him?” The funny thing is, that premonition was so right.  He fits perfectly into our family.  Patrick who I have loved as a dear friend for years, who insisted I sleep on his air mattress when I slept over at the apartment he shared with his cousin (he slept on the floor).  Patrick who rented a car when I visited over Thanksgiving because he knew I was getting stressed with the subway like a pansy.  Patrick who along with Caroline, somehow thinks that I am both a good dancer and the life of the party, two things I have trouble seeing in myself.  Patrick who is a relentless friend, visiting his tribe often and asking heart questions over skype without that hurriedness I find myself plagued with often.  Dear, dear Patrick.  Who, having somehow drank the Kool-aid that my family’s been drinking for years, is now fully on board with the relentless cheerleading that is the Nichols family.

I told Caroline the other day that, strange as it may be, now when I’m with her and he’s not around, I miss him. Which is strange, because I’ve been around her without him for her whole life! But there’s just something about this great pair, that’s kind of like a 2-for-1 special.  Two creative people, each uniquely helping and filling in the gaps for each other, but together stretching each other to be more, do more, love more.  What they both did so well separately, they are able to do increasingly well together.  Like a 1+1=3 situation.  Them together, they’re a pretty unstoppable power couple.

Cheers to Caroline and Pat, my favorite 2-for-1.