Frequently Asked Questions
The questions our readers send us are all over the map—sort of like our writing! We’d love to hear from you and answer your questions.
David: I will hear odd things or see something interesting that will spark a kernel of an idea. A couple of them started with things my children said or did. Others have come out of conversations I was having with people that sparked an idea, looking at something from a different perspective. One idea, I was at a professional conference, and one of the speakers made me think of a significantly different perspective on something. It is an idea I’m currently working on.
Donna: Almost all of my ideas come to me during prayer. The rest of them wake me in the middle of the night with a picture or thought I know came from God in my sleep. For example, the entire Gold Stone story came to me overnight after praying about the need in Haiti before I went to bed. When I woke up, I simply wrote what came to me during the night.
Donna: I love a challenge. My writing started with presenting theological ideas. Then I had the idea of presenting those ideas through allegory. If allegory, why not fantasy? If fantasy, why not science fiction? If I can write in the future, why not the past? Someone once told me I could “never” write a novel in 1st person present tense, so guess what I set out to do? Now, it’s up to the readers to let me know if I succeeded, but I surely enjoyed the challenge.
David: The answer for me is I’m interested in so many things. I’m eternally curious to a fault. For me, there’s just not enough time in a lifetime to get to it all.
David: I was called to it, as clearly as anything has ever been said to me. My undergraduate degree was in education, but I couldn’t find a job teaching when I graduated in December, so I answered an ad for a “youth worker.” When I went to the job interview, I got out of my car and literally heard a voice say, “This is where you are supposed to be and this is what you are supposed to be doing.” So, I am one of those blessed individuals who found his calling at 22 and have never looked back.
Donna: My plan was to go to medical school. My first semester freshman year, I was taking chemistry and calculus, so I signed up for a psychology class to be my “easy” course. Instead, I found it so fascinating, I changed majors, and I have loved everything about it since.
Donna: Without a doubt, C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien have been the biggest influences in my writing. Lewis wrote across genres, and all of his writings revealed the truth of Christ in some unique way. He challenged beliefs and confronted the big questions. Can you tell I want to be C. S. Lewis when I grow up? As you know, Tolkien and Lewis were great friends. Tolkien is so creative and so willing to stretch himself and do new and different things with his writing, and he, too, revealed God’s truth in unique ways.
David: My biggest influences have been my children. They inspire me.
David: My favorite quote is from The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck: “Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult-once we truly understand and accept it-then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.” I find this quote incredibly freeing, because when I struggle with something, it’s fine because I expected it, and if something is going well, it’s wonderful, because it’s an unexpected gift. So, I am freed either way things go.
Donna: My favorite quote is from C. S. Lewis: “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” Coming from a hedonistic home and being the only one who believed in something greater, a power higher than myself, and a purpose beyond my own self-gratification, I felt alienated and singled out as the odd one. This quote helped me to understand my feeling of being an alien in a foreign land, someone who didn’t understand the values or priorities of the world in which I live. So, instead of feeling like the odd one, I know I am a citizen of another world.
Donna: I don’t think I’ll ever get used to not being able to reach out and hold Cody’s hand as he rides next to me in the car or hug him as he gets in the bed at night. I still miss hearing his laugh. I still feel the emptiness in the house. However, I do believe in God’s redemption. God has more than redeemed Cody’s death in the beautiful and powerful way Cody lived his life. That is the frame I put around my loss.
David: I like to tell stories about Cody and share the things he taught me. I like to see the influences he had on other people, which are still active today. Cody took Tae Kwon Do as a form of physical therapy, starting when he was about 5 years old. His Grand Master was a hard man, former Army Special Forces, a Vietnam veteran with three Purple Hearts, who taught hand-to-hand combat and silent killing at the Special Forces training camp at Fort Bragg, North Carolina for 20 years. To say he was hard is a dramatic understatement. The first time he saw Cody doing his forms at a promotion test for his yellow belt, he was speechless. Later, he admitted that he went in the back room and wept. He asked Cody one time, “What is it about you that makes grown men cry?” To watch this man open his heart, that had so long been closed off and hardened, was nothing short of miraculous. He and Cody worked together for ten years, and with this man’s support, Cody made the Junior Olympics National Team twice. He won the Perseverance Award from the National Tae Kwon Do Foundation, and eventually earned his 2nd degree (dan) black belt in Tae Kwon Do. This man still teaches and uses Cody as the exemplar of the tenets of Tae Kwon Do to this day. Sadly, some years later, he lost his son in a tragic shooting incident, and he says Cody helped him through that. Cody had been gone ten years by that time. So, I see redemption everywhere I look.
Donna: Cody helped me cope and heal more than anyone else. He would openly talk about his dying from the time he was fourteen, when he asked me, in a calm, matter-of-fact tone, “Am I going to die?” I replied, “Honey, we’re all going to die.” “No, I mean soon,” he said. I suggested he pray and see what Jesus said about his question. When he returned, I asked him what Jesus said. He smiled and told me, “Jesus said, ‘Touch as many lives as you can. Then come on home.’” I watched Cody live by those instructions for the next three years, and he inspired me to live my life according to Jesus’ words, too. Cody also told me to think about his death like being apart from each other for college. “If everything were as it should be, I’d be going to college in the fall,” he said. “So, just think of it as if I’m in college in Australia, so we can’t see each other right now. But we know we’ll see each other again.” I’ve tried to do just that.
David: Cody prepared us all in the way that we each needed as individuals. When he prepared me, he was fifteen and really struggling, and I, in my anxiety, was hovering. He looked at me and asked, “What are you so worried about?” I said, “I cannot stand the thought of losing you and being without you.” He started laughing, and I said, “What are you laughing at, boy?” He said, “Don’t you get it? It’s only an interim.” I said, “What do you mean, it’s only an interim?” He said, “Well, you know what an interim is.” I said, “Yes, it’s an interval of space or time.” “He said, “Right. Any way you slice it, there is going to be an interim. Either you go first and I’m without you, or I go first and you’re without me, but it’s only an interim. Then we get to be together forever. So, I want you to get back to being happy as soon as you can, because it means a lot to me.” That changed my viewpoint in that moment. When he went home, I clung to that truth and tried to honor him by getting back to being happy as soon as I could.
Donna: First, I must begin my answer to this question by saying I don’t believe you ever fully heal, and I personally choose not to try to let go. Let me explain. My connection with Cody is part of me and always will be. The laws of physics say we are eternally connected on a quantum level, and my faith tells me we are always connected in our spirits, even though his death severed our physical proximity. So, letting go wasn’t my goal. My goal was reconnecting to Cody in a new way. I chose two ways to reconnect to him. The first was through memories of the wonderful times we shared. At first, looking at those memories was unbearably painful, but over time, thinking of those memories became bittersweet, like a moment of joy followed by sadness. Now, the memories make me smile, and although there is always a hint of grief, my other way of reconnecting to Cody helps ameliorate the sadness. The second reconnection happened through my belief in a future with him. Cody would share with me visions he had of heaven, where he was playing baseball with Jesus (we laughed about whether he would ever hit the ball since Jesus was pitching, or if he would always hit home runs because it was heaven), or swimming in the crystal sea before God’s throne, or making snow angels but never getting cold. I imagine myself in the stands, cheering Cody as he bats. I see myself swimming beside him and playing in the snow with him like we used to on the rare occasions it snowed. These thoughts always fill me with joy.
#1. Give yourself permission to grieve.
Many cultures have grieving rituals. The family does certain activities or rites. The mourning period lasts for months to a year or more, and the community expects the family to be changed by the experience. Our culture lacks that; in fact, we frequently do the opposite and expect people to be done with their grieving shortly after the funeral. For example, our daughter returned to college ten days after Cody’s death. Her school friends rallied around her at the funeral, and for the first week or so after she returned to school. Two weeks into her grief, she was hanging out with these friends, and someone said, “We’re ready for the old Lindsey to come back.” They saw her as a downer. Needless to say, our daughter promptly developed a new set of friends, because she knew how she felt was appropriate, and she didn’t care whether they understood or not. She was not going to live down to their expectations.
#2. Pay attention to the things you are telling yourself and clear out any lies you are believing.
Often, people who are grieving tell themselves they “should” be strong, or they “ought to” be holding up better, or they “need” to be taking care of everyone else. These are lies that hinder your grief process. Other hurtful lies might include things like: “it’s my fault;” “I should’ve done more;” “I failed them (in some way);” “it should’ve been me who died;” or, “this is punishment for the bad things I’ve done.” Regret is a destructive and unhealthy emotional response to grief, because you can’t change the past. You want to replace those lies with truth, such as, “it’s alright for me to be sad/upset/in pain/struggling;” “my job right now is to take care of myself and grieve my loss;” “I can’t do better than the best I can do;” “I have no power over circumstances;” “their death isn’t about me, but it affects me profoundly.” Occasionally, lie beliefs would flitter in, such as regret for getting upset about something trivial or forgetting to do something for him that would’ve made him happy. We helped each other reject those lies when they came up, reminding each other of our love for Cody and all the things we did do for him. Cody was always very clear that he knew how much we loved him, and how much he loved us and appreciated us. Once, he wrote a poem about us that talked about who we are as people and how much he loved us. He sent the poem to a friend, who got it framed for him to give to us. We treasure it.
#3. Understand there is no timeline or formula for grief.
Every individual is unique; therefore, every relationship is a one-of-a-kind creation between two unique individuals. If you lose that relationship, no one can know what your experience is like, because no one else has ever had or ever will have that exact experience. So, forget the so-called “stages of grief.” Your experience is yours alone. Grief is a process which can’t be rushed or avoided. When you don’t take the time to grieve, the feelings you’ve suppressed will demand to be dealt with and will show up in ways you don’t expect. So, allow yourself, your family, your neighbors, and your sphere of influence the time and space to process their feelings in whatever way is best for them. And give yourself the same grace. The first Sunday we returned to church after Cody’s death, several people came up to us and said some version of, “We knew you’d be back at church right away.” Their statement made it seem like they expected us to be fine. Well, we weren’t fine, and that needed to be OK.
#4. Look for the person who is not trying to “make you feel better,” and go be with them.
Sympathy and pity put people in a one-up/one-down position. In our experience, this isn’t helpful. We want to say to those people, “Spare us the platitudes and leave us alone.” Or even worse, we literally had people come to Cody’s funeral expecting US to take care of THEM. The people who have been most helpful to us in our grief are those people who just came alongside us and were present with us, who didn’t treat us with pity, and who didn’t expect anything from us, but were there for us if we needed something, just a cup of tea or to sit quietly by our sides so we could feel a connection. So, look for those people, because they will be there, but they won’t be calling attention to themselves. You’ll have to find them.
#5. Share your stories.
Once you find people who are not trying to “fix it” for you or make themselves feel better, begin to share stories of your loved one. It’s OK to start with the sad ones, because those may be the only ones you can think of at first. If you keep sharing memories, you’ll slowly notice that you’re starting to tell funny and happy ones, too. It may be a slow, subtle shift, but that’s OK. It’ll be painful to talk about those stories at first. The truth is, you must lean into the pain to walk through it, and the only way out is through. So, embrace your pain as part of the process. By telling the stories, you will notice the more you tell them, the easier it will be to share. Your memories will lighten and become less painful, and joy will begin to seep into your heart with the telling. We had scheduled a fund raiser for the Cody Lane Foundation before Cody’s death. It just so happened it fell less than two weeks after he went home. We stood before the crowd and wept and shared stories about Cody. We shared some of his wisdom and many stories about his quirky sense of humor. Before the evening was over, everyone was laughing, including the two of us. Although it was incredibly difficult for both of us, it became a healing moment for us.