Jen Jeffrey Billington: Don't Stop The Tears

Friday, February 17, 2017 - by Jen Jeffrey Billington
Jen Jeffrey Billington
Jen Jeffrey Billington

As a mom of three sons (now grown men) I remember trying to shush them when they cried. “It’s okay,” I’d say and handing them a tissue or wiping their face with my hand. My heart was compassionate and I cared about their hurt feelings and boo-boos, but I did not want to raise ‘sissy-boys’ so I encouraged them to dry their tears.

Now, it wasn’t to the extreme – I let them cry, but I also used phrases such as, “Okay, now be a big boy…” and encouraged them to cry for a while but then ‘cowboy up’. Maybe that was okay, maybe not, but I felt it was somewhat of a balance.

When it came to myself however, I always fought my tears. Tears for me meant I was weak. There was no time for crying. My tears usually came flooding when I just couldn’t hold them in any longer.

Why do we think tears mean weakness? Why are we so afraid to show emotion?

Being a strong woman was important to me and I hid many tears as a young mother. As I reached my 30s and 40s I allowed myself the ‘happy tears’ or the ‘belly-laugh tears’ but I still stifled the sad ones.

I got more teary-eyed a lot as I grew spiritually. A good old hymn at church brought many sweet tears of praise. “Those tears were okay,” I told myself.

After my sons grew up and I was alone, I had plenty of ‘feel-sorry-for-myself’ cries. It was a growing time for me. The tears were healing. I became even stronger because of them.

Yet, still to this day I hold back tears when they seem selfish to me. You know the ones… the “I’m so tired” tears or the “How much more, God?” tears. I don’t like crying those tears because it feels as if I am not trusting God to bring me through whatever I might be going through, or that I am feeling sorry for myself.

But as a 50-year-old woman, I have learned a lot over the years and I realize that the world may tell me I am feeling sorry for myself if I cry or that I am weak if I cry… but when I search my heart and I know where it stands, I know that it’s okay to cry. No… it’s beautiful to cry. Tears are beautiful.

Jesus wept.

And He is the strongest man I know! What a beautiful picture of emotion God created us to have. Men included. Yes, there is a time and a place and we don’t want to be sappy crybabies living defeated, but healthy tears, the ones that come appropriately, shouldn’t be stopped.

My Mama is dying.

After she left the hospital and was sent home with Hospice care, we expected ‘it’ to be that week. It wasn’t. In fact, as we were preparing our hearts and making arrangements, she seemed to be getting better!

Talk about a roller-coaster for your emotions. This has happened a few times where we felt she was only going to last a few days or a week and then she’d perk up and look like she might even get better.

Family was able to visit her, her daughters were all able to take care of her in shifts and have special moments with her. God saw fit to let everything happen for our progressive closure (and Mama’s) which was needed.

For nearly two weeks that I was in Chattanooga away from home, my sisters and I would take 24 hour shifts where we didn’t sleep at all while watching over Mama. We helped her to the bathroom many times during the night, listened to her breathing, watching her oxygen tube and making sure as she tried to sleep that it was positioned safely… it was exhausting but needed.

When I was relieved of my shift, I went to my son’s house to sleep and then would go back the next day for another shift. I visited very little with my twin sons, but enjoyed every minute with them that I didn’t need to catch up on sleep.

My oldest-by-a-minute twin Jonathan brought me hot coffee each morning (his brother Nathan didn’t have a coffee pot). Nathan had a bed all ready for me in his home and had bought new bedding to make me comfortable while I needed to stay with him at his bachelor pad. This meant more to me than they know.

Mama had some tough nights, but her days seemed so good at the time and I think she was striving for that. Her little body worked so hard to have good days and to enjoy her daughters and any visitors – especially her boyfriend.

Mama is so cute… after three years courting with this dear man, she still felt the need to ‘impress’ by making sure she was strong and had her lipstick on and hair combed.

But now, Mama is exhausted.

For the time I was there with her, she held on and wanted to get better. Now that I am back in Kentucky this week, my sisters are keeping me posted and from their reports I can tell Mama is now accepting her decline and she just wants rest. I am not sure when the Lord will have ‘her bed ready’ but I believe it won’t be long.

When I had come back home I had one day of ‘me time’ with my horse before my husband and I went to Lexington for a Chamber event called Calloway to the Capitol in which Governor Bevin was speaking.

We went a day ahead so we could do something special for Valentine ’s Day – watch the Kentucky Wildcats play basketball at Rupp Arena! I am a big Cats fan.

Waving my foam finger and watching Kentucky cream Tennessee with a 83-58 win was the ultimate! Now, I AM a VOLS football fan, but for basketball – it’s Kentucky all the way. Hubby and I needed that evening.

The next morning we were getting ready for the political event in Frankfort when my son Andrew called.

“First, everything is okay and I’m here… but Peggy fell.” Jason’s mom was at our home taking care of my little Maltipoo, Domino. Peggy is an 80-year-old fireball and was my Mama’s best friend for years.

My heart sank. I was still sleep deprived and full of emotions and I tried to push tears away, but it hurt my tender heart just thinking of my mother in-law falling, in pain and being cold outside and not being able to get up.

She had broken her hip.

Jason was in the shower and I had to be strong to tell him. “Honey, finish quickly, we need to go home, we aren’t going to Frankfort.”

 I relayed Andrew’s message, but at that time it was not confirmed that it was her hip (but I knew it most likely was and knew we needed to be home). Still, hubby wanted to talk to his Mama and make sure before he put jeans on instead of his suit.

When he talked with her, Peggy was still the strong lady she is telling him not to come home and she would be okay, but he heard it in her voice and I think God put it on his heart that we needed to skip the Capitol and head back home. The four hour trip back to Murray seemed eight hours!

Andrew kept us posted along with Jason’s brother Robert who was also at the hospital. Peggy did indeed have a broken hip.

Andrew had shown up to walk our greyhounds that morning and found Peggy in the yard in 38 degree weather, but she said she had been there less than five minutes when he got there. We were so thankful he was there.

Andrew knew everything to do and he took care of the situation calling the ambulance and staying with her until we got there. She kept telling him to go home and he said, “No, we are in this together.”

Peggy will have a long haul of recuperating but she is a tough lady and has a great support group of people around her.

Yesterday, while hubby and I were reading devotions, we talked about how grateful to God we were that Andrew was there for Peggy. Tears spilled from my husband’s cheeks when he said, “Andrew is a good kid.”

Those were beautiful tears.

Tears that let me know how much he loves his mom, how much he loves my son and thinks of him as his own. Tears that let me see a softness in his heart and that is important when a man is so strong and always keeping things together.

Tears are beautiful. Tears are healing. No matter what they mean, no matter what brings the tears – don’t stop them. They are cleansing.

After all that our family has been going through, our faith is strong and God has shown Himself through it all and is with us each and every step.

This morning I finally felt caught up on sleep, but my body felt jumbly inside.

My body had been physically exhausted, and my emotions were spent - I needed a good cry.

It wasn’t a ‘feeling-sorry-for-myself’ cry – not at all. It was a cleansing cry from being tired, it was a thankful cry that our Lord is so good and a loving cry knowing our family is a great team.

My sisters, my husband, my sons (and my daughter in-law) – we all are under a lot all at once, but we have pulled together and our strength is renewed.

Loving our parents in their senior years is a beautiful thing. I love Mama and Peggy more now than ever. This ordeal for Mama and Peggy is not over by any means, but the tears I ‘didn’t stop’ this morning were needed and now I am ready for the next lap.

Tears have a purpose. Let your tears cleanse you, teach you, and comfort you.

jen@themurraymirror.com


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