Our lives were forever changed the day we lost Corey. He was an amazing man who loved the Lord and his family with all that he was. The pain of losing him is like no other. Our only comfort comes from knowing we will see him again someday.

I have moved the slideshow played at Corey's service to it's own post page above, titled "Corey's Memorial Service - August 10, 2010"

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Thursday, October 28, 2010

The J.C.Hampton Memorial Ball Field

        I had a meeting this evening with the board of the cemetery where Corey is buried. There is an old overgrown ball field on the grounds of the cemetery, and from the moment I chose the site for Corey's burial I had a desire to see the field restored in Corey's honor.
        I remember the first few days after Corey's passing. I had so many details to attend to and so many decisions to make.  God totally carried me through those difficult days (and continues to!), and I looked to Him to lead me with each difficult decision. Thankfully, he also surrounded me with a wonderfully supportive group of family and friends who were ready and willing to help with all the details.
        Choosing Corey's burial spot was one of the biggies.  Have often do you go shopping for burial plots? This was a first for me.  I remember telling some family members that God would show me where Corey should be buried.  We went and looked at Pine Grove Cemetery in Farmington, NH.  It was a lovely place and much larger than I had realized. I was leaning towards that site, but God closed the door on that possibility when we found out that the caretaker was away until the following week and a burial in just a few days would not be possible. That left my other option, the cemetery in Milton Mills. My friend Sarah who was with me had told me that her husband Bob had played softball on a field at or next to the cemetery.  As we drove we were looking for that field as a landmark.  We came upon the cemetery but there was no ball field visible.  The country setting was beautiful. However, I wasn't feeling entirely at peace about it being the right spot since I really liked the looks of the old part of the cemetery better than the new part, which is where Corey would have to be buried.  We met the next day with John, who oversees the cemetery.  He showed me the available lots and we talked about the cemetery grounds.  He explained that the Salmon Falls River was at the edge of the field behind the lots I was considering.   I thought that was neat because Corey's job as a potter at Salmon Falls Stoneware was what brought him to NH 13+ years back.  In the far section of the overgrown field (undeveloped cemetery land) there were what looked to be fence posts.  I asked John what used to be there, and he told me that it used to be a ball field. I immediately realized that it was the same ball field we were looking for when trying to find the cemetery! It's very overgrown and what little remains are left are not visible from the main road (much of the metal fencing was stolen).  It was at that point that I remarked to John that I would love to see the field restored in Corey's honor. The softball team Corey played on this past season had actually played on this field about 3 years back. I asked John about the possibility of restoring the field if I was able to bring the resources and people together to get the work done.  John seemed very receptive to the idea.
        It was when John mentioned that Esther Culverhouse's husband was buried just a stone's throw away that I got goose bumps and knew God was confirming this was the place for Corey.  You see, Esther is Abigail's first grade teacher this year.  Just a day or so earlier, Karen, Abi's teacher from last year and a good friend of mine, mentioned that she thought Abi and Mrs. C. would be a good fit for each other because Esther had lost her husband to cancer just about 2 years back.  Karen thought Esther, in a special way, would be very sensitive to Abigail's grief and that they might help each other heal.  So when John pointed out the Culverhouse grave site nearby, Cindy, Corey's mom, and I both started to tear up.  We hugged each other and I said, "This is the place. I knew God would show me."
        A few weeks after Corey was laid to rest I was visiting his grave.  I had one of the programs from his service in my Bible and started reading through it.  As I got to the very bottom of the back page I noticed that the address for the cemetery was listed as Applebee Road.  Until reading that I hadn't known the name of the road and then it hit me that Applebee was the last name of the state trooper who had called to give me the official word that Corey had indeed died just an hour or so earlier that evening.  Again, I got goosebumps.  It was as if God was reassuring me that I had indeed chosen the right burial spot.
        In the 3 months following Corey's death I have not lost sight of my vision to see the ball field restored.  It has been a little hard getting the project rolling, but I think we are headed in the right direction! The meeting with the cemetery board this evening was the first big step where I had the opportunity to present a plan for the project.  Basic details were shared with the board in terms of what the project will entail.  If you'd like to have a look, I have placed the project plan that I prepared for the meeting on it's own page under 'important posts' (above). There were 11 individuals present at the meeting including the 6 board members and John, the president of the board.  They are a very nice group of folks!  I am pleased to have had the opportunity to meet them and grateful that they were willing to hear and consider my proposal.  At this point, the next step in the process involves them meeting to discuss what I presented and to vote on whether to allow the project to proceed.  I left the meeting feeling very positive about the possibility of a favorable outcome!
        I have had a lot of people offer help for the project and share with me connections that they have to potential resources. There seems to be a large amount of enthusiasm for this to happen. Oh and by the way, that includes Esther Culverhouse :)  She was there at the meeting tonight as well. She is eager to support the project and see the field restored, as her husband chose the spot where he would be buried because of its proximity to the old ball field. So cool!! I will be establishing a fund (probably through our church) for anyone desiring to make a donation to the J.C. Hampton Memorial Ball Field. I will post details for that as soon as they are available. It would be a tax-deductible donation if that makes it any more appealing ;) If you would like to get on board with the project and have time/a skill/or another resource to offer, please send me an email at corjilly@gmail.com or post a comment, and I can connect with you offline to talk further.
     Thanks all for your support!  I will keep you posted on the board's decision.
                                For God's glory and my husband's honor,  Jill

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Andrea completes the walk!

I had mentioned a couple weeks back that my friend Veronica's daughter, Andrea, would be walking in Corey's memory for the Out of the Darkness Walk sponsored by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.  I was able to meet her as she finished the walk.  I saw another person with a camera and thought, I need to get a picture of this for the blog!  So, I ran back to my car where thankfully I had my camera, raced back and took a couple of pictures.
  (Corey's initials on the back of her shirt)

        Thank you to all who supported Andrea's efforts!  She raised over $500 for this worthy organization.  This money will be enough to cover the cost to train a new Survivor of Suicide support group facilitator.  Yeah Andrea!!  Thanks for braving that chilly and extremely windy Fall day!  Love you!
        For those of you who might not have visited Andrea's personal fundraising page she wrote a really nice tribute to Corey.  Here it is:
"I recently lost a great mentor who lost his battle with depression. He left behind a wonderful wife and two precious little girls. He helped me through a tough year in school and made me laugh when I thought no one else understood. I am doing this to try to make a difference so this doesn't happen to another family. Thank you JCH for your help in French and for your friendship. You will be missed. I will hug your girls often and help them when they need me. In your honor: <3 & miss you JCH/RIP  ~ Andrea"

Friday, October 15, 2010

A bittersweet surrender...

So one week ago today (last Friday 10/8) I signed off on the papers for the sale of Corey's beloved tractor.  I was really pleased that it was going to sell before winter, but it was hard to see it go...a bittersweet surrender.  I met the gentleman who was purchasing it. I started to cry as I told him, "My husband loved that tractor."  If he hadn't known the situation, he would have thought I was crazy for crying as he handed over to me a bank check for $16K.  Poor guy, I don't think he knew quite what to say. He walked out with me as I went to take one more look at Corey's tractor before leaving. We made some small talk and then I left.
        I came across some pictures on my mother's camera of Corey "working" around our yard.  Aside from his family, there were few things in life that brought Corey as much enjoyment as that tractor did.  In fact, it was almost like part of the family.  I remember a few days after he purchased it, he parked it in a prominent spot on our front lawn for all to see.  He was very proud of his purchase  :) Last year at Halloween we weren't home to give out candy so Corey drove the tractor down to the bottom of our driveway and placed our lit Jack-o-lantern along with the bowl of candy in the bucket loader which he then raised to "kid level."  He was very clever about finding creative uses for it and was frequently trying to test its limits (lifting the Subaru was just one example...) If you click on the photos below you can view them in a larger size.

Last winter we had a good amount of snow on the ground by December.  We live on a cul-de-sac and Corey plowed all the snow into the center of the circle out in front of our house.  It made a great "mountain" for our girls and our neighbor's kids to go sledding down.  Corey enjoyed snowboarding and his efforts were really aimed at shaping a half-pipe out of the massive pile.  Our home sits up on a hill looking out toward the circle and Corey started grooming a trail to snowboard down that started right outside our living room window.  He made several small jumps to ride over as he descending the hill trying to pick up enough speed to make it across the road and all the way up the half-pipe.  It was quite something to watch except that he wasn't able to work out all the kinks before we had a thaw and the project lost its momentum.  But the kids enjoyed playing on it the rest of the winter and that pleased Corey.  The girls loved that their Daddy knew how to have a good time with them.  

On a bit of a random note, I added another song to my playlist.  It goes along with my title...Bittersweet.  Back in our high school days Corey was into some music groups with rather weird names... Husker du, Dinosaur Jr. and Big Head Todd and the Monsters to name a few...I did take a liking to the last one and the song I added, Bittersweet, is one of theirs.  Corey and I slow danced to it outside his car with it playing on his car stereo.  We were heading to a Christmas formal my Junior year of high school (1993).  I had never slow-danced with anyone before (not really a whole lot to it) and so Corey decided he would show me the ropes beforehand  ;)  There were a lot of firsts for me with Corey...the first guy I ever dated, kissed, and slow-danced with!  Needless to say, I was pretty smitten with him :) 

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Blue Skies

Sorry folks, it has been much longer since my last post than I had hoped...I have been itching to get back on here and write but life has been so busy...below is something I wrote the week before last...my how time gets away from me!
        It was a beautiful day here last Wednesday.  I've been visiting Corey's grave usually once a week because it is so peaceful there and just being there seems to help me feel better.  Last Wednesday the temperatures were around 80 degrees which felt so good.  I spread a blanket out and just laid in the warm sunshine staring up at the few clouds that were in the sky and the leaves falling around me from the trees above.  Yes, the leaves have been turning.  I am dreading winter.  It will be hard to have the snow and cold weather come.  Trips to Milton Mills where Corey is buried won't be as frequent I suppose.  I don't believe they plow the cemetery in the winter.  
       Anyway, the picture below was taken the day of Corey's funeral at the committal ceremony.  It was a hot and humid day but the sky was pure blue.  Abigail started calling the events of the day "Daddy's party" (since I had explained that we were celebrating Daddy just like we would on his birthday). So of course there had to be balloons, right?  After the short service at the cemetery we released 35 gold balloons - one for each year of Corey's life.  To help Abigail say good-bye, since she didn't get a chance before Corey died, she drew a picture for him to express her love.  We attached it to 3 balloons just to be sure it would take off.  I didn't realize that the photographer took a picture of her drawing.  There is also a picture of her and I at Corey's casket as she was drawing the picture for him.  I will try to get more of the pics online soon.  
       The photography was done by a member of our church, Tris Fowler.  Thanks so much Tris!  You did a beautiful job and I am SO grateful to have these!  Tris also videotaped the service which I am hoping to find a way to get online so anyone who would like to view it can.  Both the photos and the video are a beautiful remembrance of what, for me, was one of the hardest days of my life to get through.  I feel blessed to have these, particularly for the girls since they likely won't remember much of that day.  I know it probably seems weird to have wanted pictures/video of such a sad day.  But the fact that it was all about Corey and his life makes it well worth remembering.  I remarked to someone that ironically the day of Corey's funeral felt much like our wedding day with so many people helping me with all the small details to make it special and trying so hard to be sure it went just the way I had hoped (and it did!).  However, the elation I felt as a bride preparing to wed was such a stark contrast to the sorrow I felt on this day at the loss of my groom.  I can't wait for the day when we are reunited!  

Letting go...

 Priceless artwork...

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Out of the Darkness

Psalm 36: 5-9
Your Love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens, 
your faithfulness to the skies. 
Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, 
your justice like the great deep. 
O Lord, you preserve both man and beast. 
How priceless is your unfailing love!
Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of your wings. 
They feast on the abundance of your house;
you give them drink from your river of delights. 
For with you is the fountain of life;
in your light we see light. 

        On Saturday, October 16th my friend's daughter, Andrea, will be participating in the Out of Darkness community walk to benefit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
        She will be walking in Corey's honor.
On Thursday night, August 5th, Corey lost his battle with depression. None of us, not even those closest to him (myself included) saw coming what would be his end. Corey struggled with this illness for at least 4 to 5 years before God rescued him from the darkness when He welcomed him into Heaven's light. Corey loved his family very much. So many of the details that I have uncovered from his last few days point to this fact, including the fact that Corey waited until the girls and I were not home when he took his life (we were 90 minutes away, gone for an overnight stay out of town with my mom).
        For many of you, knowing how Corey died only brings more questions. How did he get to this horrible place of making such a horrific decision to end his life?  "Everything seemed fine with Corey," people say to me. Corey struggled with clinical depression. For those who haven't experienced this level of "the blues", it is more than just being "down" for a few days. Clinical depression produces physical symptoms that accompany the depressed feelings. Lack of energy and motivation, changes with appetite, anxiety in the form of heart palpitations and chest pains...just to name a few (you've all seen the drug commercials)...real symptoms that can produce real problems with daily life. People who suffer with such a condition can be very good at masking it. I know because I also struggle with depression. Fortunately my treatment regimen is working effectively. However, before I started taking meds my depression had me in a very dark place. The task of trying to appear okay while around other people was just plain exhausting. Corey's words to me over the phone just minutes before he died expressed his fatigue at battling his symptoms when he said, "I appreciate all you've tried to do for me, but I'm tired. I just can't do it anymore." Those with depression are sometimes able to keep their symptoms "contained", so to speak, for periods of time...such as throughout a work day...only to come home and be hardly able to function. Instead of being able to get rejuvenated, the downward spiral often only continues making the next day that much harder to get through.
        Why am I sharing all this with you? Because I, along with many others, believe that there is a stigma attached to mental illness that I hope to help dispel. Mental illness (depression included) is a real illness like any other...just as heart disease or diabetes are illnesses that must be managed effectively or can result in death. The brain is an organ just like any other in the body.  In the days following Corey's death, a good friend encouraged me to bring the cause of Corey's death out into the light because there are so many more people that struggle with this type of illness than is talked about openly. Again, there is a stigma attached to depression and other mental illnesses that causes people to try to hide their problem - sometimes in shame because they feel their symptoms are a sign of weakness.
        My husband was a good man who was dearly loved by "his girls" and so many others, and he is sorely missed. I promised to do whatever I could to bring good out of his death.  Sharing our story is part of that effort. Things in Corey's life were not okay...he was struggling with a great deal of inner turmoil. As I stated at his funeral, God was in all the details surrounding Corey's death. He was there in the moments just prior. Please understand that I do not believe the choice Corey made was the right solution to his problems. I also know that it was not God's desire to see Corey make the choice that he did.  And yes, God is powerful enough that he could have stopped Corey in his fatal tracks. That was not His plan and I can't tell you why.  I can however be at peace knowing that the God I know and love is faithful and wise and works together for good all things for those who love Him (Romans 8:28). I had shared with someone that the deeper my valley, the more God has poured out his grace and mercy in my life. This led me to question then, where was God's provision in the depths of Corey's valley? The answer came through a friend who said that it was as if God said, "Enough, you've suffered enough Corey. I'm going to allow this to happen (his death) so you can come home and be completely healed." What grace and mercy! 
        To Corey~
Isaiah 60:19-20
"The sun will no more be your light by day,
nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you,
for the Lord will be your everlasting light,
and your God will be your glory.

Your sun will never set again,
and your moon will wane no more;
the Lord will be your everlasting light,
and your God will be your glory."
        I love you more than words can say Corey.  Abigail's words: "Mommy is happy about daddy's new life."  I am so happy you have been set free!  I only wish it wasn't so hard for all of us down here to live without you! 

        Thank you all for following my blog and allowing me to share all of this with you. I have simply one request (or maybe 2 ;)). As I've mentioned before, my utmost concern with sharing these details openly is that "little ears", particularly Abigail and Allison's will overhear information about Corey's death that is beyond their level of understanding. We never know when innocent ears might be listening in on our conversations and what children might, without meaning harm, say to one of my kids. Out of respect for our family, would you please be cautious when discussing these circumstances with others. I would prefer that you use my blog as the forum for discussion about the details surrounding Corey's death. Would you also please encourage others not to speculate about details I have not shared with you all personally.  It is natural to want to discuss tragic events, but I really don't want to see rumors started. If you have any questions you want to ask me, please feel free to ask, either through email (corjilly@gmail.com) or you can post a comment (I monitor these before they are visible to all). If it is a question I am not comfortable answering, I'll let you know :))
        Thank you also for your patience with me. I know I haven't posted anything for over a week. This post was a "biggie" and I've been working on it for days now...What a relief to be able to finally hit the publish button! :))  I have to say, it feels very freeing to bring all of this out of the darkness and into the light! Thanks for walking this journey with me. God has truly been carrying the girls and I each step of the way.
        Okay, one more thing and then I'm done for the night...really! Below is the link to Andrea's personal support page for the Out of the Darkness walk.  She is a teenager with a tender heart...much like Corey's. I would love for her to feel supported in her efforts toward such a great cause! She also wrote some sweet words about Corey's influence in her life.  Be sure to check it out:
http://afsp.donordrive.com/index.cfm fuseaction=donorDrive.participant&eventID=1199&participantID=140354
                                               Much love to you all!