No Parent Should Ever…

….ever, not ever, have to bury a child.

It has to be their worst nightmare; one that never ends. One that demolishes your life.

I seriously cannot imagine, nor do I ever want to. I pray daily to keep my daughter and son-in-law and their children healthy and safe.

Over the years I have known people who have lost children. One woman, the daughter of a very good friend of ours, lost her baby girl to SIDS at the age of only 3 months. I remember it as if it were yesterday. How she walked into the nursery and found a blue, unresponsive infant, and frantically began doing CPR as she shouted to her oldest son to call the ambulance.

No warning. No indication of any problems. Suddenly she was gone. And nothing could bring her back.

A devastated family. A life cut far too short. I remember this mom saying how she felt going out to buy her daughter the most beautiful dress she could find to bury her in, because she’d never be buying her a prom gown, or enjoy the very special time of going with her to pick out her wedding dress.

A few weeks ago we attended the funeral of a 28 year old man, the eldest child and only son of a co-worker. The young man had been an exceptional student, an athlete, and had everything to live for…until he was diagnosed with a rare and extremely deadly form of bone cancer.

He fought hard and went through procedures and surgeries which we cannot imagine, even losing a leg. He fought to the end, his family alongside him, including his fiancée and love of his life, who he had proposed to only a few months before he passed away.

Once again, a devastated family. A life cut far too short. As his father said as he gave his son’s eulogy (and I have no idea how he managed to get through it) he left behind all that he still wanted to do. He left behind the love of his life, and the life they never had a chance to establish.

But he ended with this reminder…”the Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

I am also reminded of the mass shooting victims over the past several weeks as well as the past several years. Too many to count. Families lost children; some lost more than one. Suddenly life as they knew it ended, and will never be the same again. The grief will never stop. It doesn’t matter whether you know your child has a terminal disease and you have time to say goodbye. Because you’re still clinging to that tiny piece of hope that there will suddenly be a miracle. A child’s death is still something that should never happen.

Time heals, but there are certain things that not even time can completely heal. And all we can do is cling to our faith.

Parents should not have to bury their children.

Parents, the next time you’re awakened at 3 am by a screaming infant be happy that child is there crying, breathing, and calling out for you. What if your nursery were suddenly forever silent?

The next time your toddler has meltdown #20 of the day, imagine what it would be like to never hear that again because your toddler is no longer there to have a meltdown.

The next time your middle schooler refuses to do what you ask him to do, talks back to you, and runs to his room and slams the door, imagine what your life would be like without any other episodes ever taking place again, because he’s no longer there.

The next time your high school student defies you, lies to you, or gets in trouble, before punishing her, imagine what life would be like if she were no longer there. Tell her you love her, and then deal with the problem.

The next time your adult child makes you crazy with worry, forgets to call, or tells you he doesn’t need your help any more because he’s grown, as you’re dealing with your hurt feelings, and trying to decide what to do, think about what it would be like to no longer have that adult child alive and well.

Parents, go hug your children. Tell them how much you love them. If they’re grown and living away from you, call them or face time them. Tell them how you feel.

Because tomorrow is not promised. We only have today. And today doesn’t last forever.

5/31/2019

We read about it happening in other cities. We talk about how horrible it is. We pray for the families of the victims. We don’t understand what happened or why…what made someone just “lose it” and go on a shooting spree, taking the lives of so many others.

We don’t understand why or how one person could destroy the lives of so many in just a few minutes. Why he had no feelings for his fellow human beings. Why he thought shooting so many people could solve whatever problems he had.

And we don’t think about anything like that happening in our own city, or own town. It always happens somewhere else.

Until it happens where we live. In our own community. In our case, ten minutes from our neighborhood.

Near the end of a work day, on a Friday afternoon, a disgruntled long-time city employee, after shooting and killing a contractor in his car in the parking lot, calmly walked through the employee entrance of Building 2 of the Municipal Complex and began shooting. Why? Who will ever know?

He killed twelve people during a 35 minute shooting spree. Four others are still in area hospitals in critical condition. The shooter was also killed by some of our brave first responders who risked their lives to save others and most likely prevented further carnage.

I heard about it like many others, a text message sent by a friend at the end of the work week that there were reports of an active shooter at the municipal center. We hear such reports often in our area since we are near so many military bases, and usually they prove to either be rumors or one person causing some problems not even gun related.

I didn’t think a lot about it, even when I checked the news apps on my phone, because it was still in the “reports of an active shooter and police are responding” report. With “no further details available at this time.”

Within the hour all of that had changed. And not for the better.

Rumors and stories spread across the news. Facebook and Twitter were blowing up with posts. As in every such situation, reports were skewed one way or the other, because in such emotional events, so many facts are repeated over and over and changed each time someone else repeats them.

That’s what happens.

But unfortunately at the end of this day, reports were sadly true. We watched and listened as the death toll kept rising. And couldn’t believe what we were hearing.

And at the end of the day, the end of the weekend, we could not, and still can not, even begin to understand the enormity of this event in our community. Nor will we ever.

We cannot begin to count the toll this has taken on the families of the victims; their friends and neighbors; the co-workers who were spared who will forever wonder how they made it and the person working next to them didn’t.

Husbands and wives lost their spouses. Children lost fathers and mothers. Parents lost children. Others lost brothers and sisters. And it goes on….

We did not personally know any of the victims. But over the last few days we’ve heard stories about them, and wish we had known them, because each and every one of them are being remembered as a very special, loving, and giving person. Their loved ones of course are devastated. Who could have known when they said their morning good-byes before heading to work that it would be their last?

I cannot begin to imagine what the families are going through; what their coworkers are going through; I can’t do anything to help them except contribute to the campaign that has been started to help the families financially. It’s a help, but nowhere nearly enough.

To everyone affected by this tragedy, our heartfelt condolences. Please know that this affects us all, but nowhere nearly as much as you who lost so much in the blink of an eye, the senseless pulling of a trigger.

Please keep our community and the victims in your thoughts and prayers.

#vbstrong

Mother’s Day – The Tears Still Come – 2019

Saturday, May 7, 2016, the day before Mother’s Day that year, I did something that I hadn’t done in ten years. I went into my favorite card shop, which in itself is not unusual, but going to the Mother’s Day card section was. I had no idea that going in to buy a Mother’s Day card for the first time in ten years could be so difficult. Even though it was for our daughter

Looking at the display of Mother’s Day cards that were still left I was suddenly overwhelmed. Especially since I had just written two other blogs about Mother’s Day. I thought after ten years I could handle it. And I did, but not without the tears forming in the corners of my eyes. And sensing that familiar feeling of sobs forming in the back of my throat. You’d have thought my loss was much fresher than ten years ago.

I had just talked to a good friend a few hours previously whose mother passed away two years ago (now five years ago), actually on Mother’s Day. That was still fresh sorrow, fresh grief. She was crying for her mommy, and I felt her pain, and I was crying with her as I tried to comfort her and encourage her. When I told her that her mom knew how much she loved her and was watching over her, that helped some. But such pain takes many years to be healed.

And there I was. Standing in the middle of that card store in front of a display of cards I couldn’t even begin to read. I’d already picked out the gift for our daughter, which also made me start to tear up, since it was a Willow Tree angel of a mother holding her new infant. I certainly had to get her a card, but how many would I have to go through before I found the perfect one for her? Before I could get out of that store before I started actually crying and the other shoppers thought I’d lost my mind?

It’s not that I was sad our daughter was getting ready to have her first baby. On the contrary, I was thrilled beyond measure. But suddenly in that store, I realized once again that my own mother was no longer around, and I missed her more than ever! I wanted to share my happiness with her that I was going to be a grandmother, and she was going to be a great-grandmother. I wanted to see the smile on her face, and the sparkle in her eye, hear the excitement in her voice as we talked about all the wonderful times ahead for all of us. Four generations of amazing women.

But only three generations are still alive. Which includes our (then) soon to be born granddaughter.

Yes, the tears still come on Mother’s Day when you no longer have your mother with you. It doesn’t matter how long ago she left. Ten or fifteen years, two years, two months. It still hurts. It doesn’t matter how old we were when we lost her. I was 56. Another friend was 68 when she lost her mother. Another was only 26, and another 18. We all had more memories we wanted to make with them, but now we can only make them in our dreams.

There will always be reminders of her, and I shouldn’t be surprised at my reaction that day. I’m sure I’m not the only one who had similar experiences.

But I am thankful for the years we had with her. I am thankful for her love. And I am thankful for the promise of spending eternity with her.

The following year was easier. And the year after that. And this year, when I was again getting a card and realized sour daughter now has two beautiful children. And I couldn’t help but wish my mom could see her two great granddaughters. She would be so happy! And so proud!

I like to think that she does somehow see them. No, I have no idea how, but I do know that the Lord loves us so much that He wants us to be happy, and I can’t imagine Him not letting her, as well as my dad, see their great grandchildren once in a while. Because I know that would make them happy as well.

Mom, now I realize how you felt when you became a grandmother. I just wish I could have given you another one, because having two is even more than double the excitement, and double the enjoyment. I can still tell your sister Pauline, and I can send her pictures of them, but it’s still just not the same. I know she loves getting them and hearing about them, but still…..

Mom, I hope your Mother’s Day in heaven is wonderful! I still love you, and I always will. And please watch over our beautiful Rachel and Ryleigh for us.

What Do You Say?

About six years ago, I visited a friend in the hospital….again. She’d already been in there for a little over two months. She had endured three separate surgeries, as well as a bout of pneumonia. She was on a feeding tube because the doctors still hadn’t gotten her system to where it could properly digest food. In the months she’d been in the hospital, she’d only had real food three or four times, and hadn’t been able to keep it down.

Her first diagnosis was a blockage in her gall bladder; then that diagnosis changed to a tumor in the pancreas. She was transferred from the smaller hospital she’d originally been sent to a larger facility where they were more equipped to handle such cases.

The diagnosis quickly changed from a tumor to a cancerous tumor, but still the doctors said it could be cured by removing it, and then follow-up chemo or radiation. That first surgery went well, and she was on her way to a quick recovery, or so we thought.

Until another surgery was required for a twisted intestine, and then another for a blocked bile duct. And still she’d had no solid food. We all watched her grow slowly weaker. Physically, that is. But the one thing that remained constant was her faith.

Even in the midst of all the surgeries, the discomfort, the inability to even get out of bed by herself, the one thing that kept my friend going most of all was her deep and abiding faith in her Lord. Because she
knew the God she served, and she knew His promises, and she knew He would never leave her or forsake her.

Did that mean she didn’t get discouraged? Not at all. She was human like the rest of us, and no matter how strong our faith, I do not think any one of us could say that we would never waiver, never have our moments of doubt.

But then came the day I went to visit her in the hospital again, and found she had been transferred to the oncology wing, I have to say my heart sank. And I KNEW, regardless of what else we were told, that it wasn’t good.

Then came the late night text three days later. A new prognosis. The doctors couldn’t do anything more for her. She was going to be sent home with hospice care. Her daughter was flying in from out of town to help take care of her.

What do you say? And what does it do to our faith?

I remember the last time my husband and I visited her at home. She was dressed up as best she could, laying in her rented hospital bed, wearing her best earrings and favorite necklace, with a colorful scarf knotted around her neck. And slowly enjoying a taste of ice cream.

“Don’t you dare cry for me,” she told us. “Not for a moment! I’m going to meet the Lord soon, and I’m excited! He’s taken care of me this far, and He’s still doing it! I’ll see you all again. Don’t you worry about that!”

Wow! And she meant it, too. That, my friends, is faith. And I hate to admit, I don’t know if I’d have that attitude of faith or not. I certainly hope so, but none of us know how we’d react.

My friend went home to be with our Lord about a week later. Yes, we mourned. We cried. So did her family. But I couldn’t help but remember the words she spoke the last time we saw her.

How would I react? How would I handle it, if it were me, or someone I dearly love?

I honestly cannot say. My faith is strong, but strong enough to not doubt in the midst of a storm like this? To not say, “why me, Lord?” To not try to make a deal with Him to allow me or my loved one to be healed? To give them…or me…just a little more time?

I’ve had other friends, close friends as well as acquaintances, who’ve gone through this situation. Each handled it differently, until very close to the end when they finally realized their time on this earth was short, and they would soon be going on to meet their Lord.

To me and other friends and family, they said “it’s ok. God’s got His plan. It may not be the same as mine, but that’s the plan, and I know it’s going to be ok.”

But at night, in the quiet and stillness of an inability to sleep, what were they thinking? What were they praying? Were they scared and afraid to admit it? Or did they truly believe everything they told us all?

I really don’t know.

I remember my mother’s last few days, especially the last time I was with her. She was so adamant that all she wanted to do was go home to the Lord. I remember her saying very strongly to me, “Don’t you understand? I don’t want to live like this anymore. I just want God to take me home. I’m tired and I’m ready. You’re going to be fine without me. I just want to go.”

And she did four days later. And in her case, I can almost guarantee she wasn’t scared. She was just ready.

Why write this now? First of all, I’m not sick with a catastrophic illness, and neither is anyone in my family. But we do have several friends who are going through some very serious illnesses, as well as friends whose loved ones are also.

And sometimes I just don’t know what to say. Because I’m not in their shoes, and I’m not going through it. I cannot say, “I know how you feel.” Because I don’t. I can try to imagine, but after I imagine it, I go back to my reality. A reality in which I’m ok, and so is my family.

All I can do is support them and their loved ones, be there for them when they need to talk, or cry. And love them through a tough time. And realize that unfortunately this is one of those parts of life that most of us have to go through at least once.

If you or a friend of yours is going through this, don’t ignore them or avoid them because you don’t know what to say or do. They just need to know you’re there; to know you care; and know that if they need something they can ask you without feeling like they’re bothering you.

You may not know exactly what to say or do, but sometimes a smile, a hug, a bunch of flowers from the grocery store, can do more to brighten someone’s day in such times than you’ll ever know.

Is someone you know going through a serious tough time? Do something unexpected for them. See what happens.

Making That Ultimate Decision

In the past several months we have had two friends in that ultimate life or death situation. A situation that none of us would ever want to be in, on either side.

Two people experienced catastrophic medical events which resulted in irreparable brain injury. Their bodies still functioned, but brain activity was minimal. Their loved ones had to make a choice; the most difficult choice any one could make.

Medical science has progressed in so many ways, and continues to do so on a daily basis. Today people are being saved from any number of horrible accidents and diseases that even five years ago would have been fatal. They may have life altering injuries which require months of rehabilitation to enable them to return to an active, although sometimes changed, lifestyle, but they are able to continue their life with their family and friends.

Unfortunately medical science cannot repair damaged brain cells. It cannot rejuvenate them, or replace them. When the brain is denied oxygen during a major medical crisis, brain cells begin to die. And although doctors can do amazing things to pull people through these horrific episodes, sometimes they just cannot.

Their brains are still functioning enough to operate most of their organs, with help of advanced medical equipment, but the essence of who they are, who they were, cannot be restored. They cannot breathe on their own. They cannot “eat” without a feeding tube. They cannot see what’s around them, because their eyes can no longer open, or if they do, we have no idea if they are seeing, and if what they do see even registers on any conscious level of their minds.

Yet their bodies function, and the minimal brain activity tells us they’re still living; still with us. Our minds tell us they can get better, because we desperately want them to. We want them to be who they were before that catastrophic event that changed everything.

But sometimes it just cannot happen. And we are forced to make decisions that no one should have to make.

There are two sides to this issue, and I can understand both of them. There are many people who say that under no circumstances should their loved ones be shut off from any chance of life; that there can always be a miracle, and that person can wake up and be him or herself again. I appreciate their faith, and I understand it. I totally get it. In that circumstance I’d probably feel the same way, at least in the beginning.

Unfortunately in such severe cases as I’m describing, there is no miracle on the horizon. Yes, it always could happen, and I don’t dispute that.

But let’s talk about the person in the hospital bed who is the one hooked up to life supporting equipment; the person who cannot function at all without that equipment. If he or she could talk to us, what would that conversation be like?

What would you want to tell your loved ones if you were in that situation? Trapped in a body that would never work properly again? And your mind, the essence of you, if any part were still functioning to understand what was happening, what would you say?

Would you want to be trapped in a body that you have absolutely no control over? Would you want to exist not being able to speak, to move, to see, to do any of the things you used to enjoy? Would you want to exist in this new world in which you found yourself, with no chance of ever leaving this new world because of medical science? Confined to this one small space?

Or would you want to go home to the Lord, finally free of the suffering, finally and beautifully restored with a new body and a whole intact mind?

That’s the choice we have to consider. Because when our loved ones cannot decide any more, we are forced to make that decision. And it’s a gut wrenching, grievous, and irreversible decision. One that we can wrestle with for days, sometimes weeks, before deciding.

While our loved ones remain trapped in that twilight world we cannot imagine. And we have no idea what, if anything, they consciously know. We know we don’t want to make a final irreversible decision; but sometimes we have no choice.

We pray. We cry. We talk to the doctors. We pray more. We ask others for guidance. But in the end, we are forced to make that ultimate decision. And it’s far from easy; far from simple. And it’s a decision that must be lived with the rest of our lives.

It’s extremely hard to do the right thing, and no matter what decision is made, it will be questioned many times over. Because we’re human and we will always have those moments of self doubt.

In these two situations, neither person had an advanced medical directive. They had talked about it, but like so many of us, they just “didn’t have time” to get it done. They thought they had all the time in the world. Until their world irreparably changed, and they could no longer make that choice. One person passed away on their own, before the choice had to be made. The other, well, loved ones had to make the choice.

My heart cries for all of those involved, not just in these cases, but in the countless others every day. And I cannot judge anyone’s decisions in these situations.

I know what I would want done, and both my husband and I have advanced directives which clearly spell out our wishes.

It wouldn’t make such decisions easier, but it would make it better for our loved ones. I pray they will never need to be used.

Think about it before you judge or criticize. Put yourself in their places.

May the Lord bless each and every person who has or is going through this situation. May you be comforted with the hope and assurance that one day you will all be reunited. And know that the decisions that were made were the right ones.

The Invisible Table

A few days ago I read a Thanksgiving essay by Mitch Albom, one of the authors whose books I thoroughly enjoy reading.

“The Empty Table” is a tribute to his family members who are no longer here, and describes the empty table he is setting this year in their honor, a place set for each of them. And he goes on to name each of them, with a brief description of how they had enjoyed their annual family Thanksgiving meal while they were with him.

It was one of the most touching tributes for lost family members I have read in a long time.

Like Mr. Albom, I have also lost many family members, including my parents. And I so often think of them at this time of year, and if I close my eyes, I can still see them sitting at our family table, enjoying both food and fellowship, and above all, love for one another. Like Mr. Albom, I miss each of my family members terribly. I understand how he feels.

Over the years I’ve written about honoring and remembering lost loved ones at the holiday season, especially that first year without them. I’ve talked about setting a place for them at the table, even displaying a picture on the table by their untouched plate.

But setting an entire table and leaving it empty? I would not have thought of that. But yet, it makes sense.. if they’re there in spirit, why not make them welcome! Honor their memory in whatever way you choose.

Now I am in no way the writer Mr. Albom is. His way with words is incredible and his ideas and style are unique. However, his essay inspired me to write my own version of his Thanksgiving tribute, and I hope you will take a few minutes to do the same.

My tribute is called “the invisible table”. As I can imagine so many of my loved ones, once again together, enjoying a heavenly Thanksgiving dinner, probably similar to the ones they enjoyed here on earth. Now ageless, healthy, and, I would think, able to eat whatever they want, and as much as they want.

I can imagine their heavenly Thanksgiving starting early, because after all, time is eternal in heaven, and its citizens do not need to conform to the earthly time frames that once limited them. However for this day I would think a few bits of earthy traditions would appear in their heavenly homes. After all, the turkey needs to be put in the oven the first thing in order for everything else to be ready on time.

Wait! Cooking in heaven? Doesn’t the food just appear? Already prepared?

Most likely, however, since my grandmother, my mother, and most of my aunts loved to cook for Thanksgiving, I’m sure they still enjoy that in heaven, and still enjoy preparing their favorite dish to serve their loved ones and any special guests who drop by. (But I’m willing to bet they don’t have to clean up or put the leftovers away!)

I’m sure their heavenly Thanksgiving table is beautifully set, with flickering golden candles, glistening crystal goblets, and iridescent plates like we can only imagine. And once the meal is ready, most likely they are all seated at this table, and served their delicious meal by a hoard of angels.

I can see my grandfather, at the head of the table, his wavy hair now full and dark, bowing his head and saying the Thanksgiving blessing, and thanking the Lord that they are all together.

My grandmother, now wheelchair free, sits at the opposite end of that table, the family matriarch, surrounded by her children and their spouses, telling him, “Seymour, cut that turkey and start passing the food before it gets cold!”

My uncle Hilton is there, no longer shaking from Parkinson’s, his wife Ruth and their daughter Julia at his side, swapping jokes with his brothers in law, and planning a fishing trip for all of them.

My uncle Carlton and his wife Kitty, freed from the earthly prison of Alzheimer’s, offer a Thanksgiving toast with heavenly wine, the likes of which have never been tasted on earth.

My uncle Fowler is there, cancer free, wearing one of his favorite lighted Christmas ties, the lights blinking off and on while he’s racing my Uncle Jay to see who gets the turkey neck!

And uncle Jay, also free from Alzheimer’s, is eating so quickly, as always, that he drops food on his favorite Christmas tie, which actually blends in with the food spots from last year’s dinner. And of course, there are my mom’s dogs, all of them reunited with her, circling around Jay’s chair, because he always drops yummy morsels for them to enjoy.

My aunt Mary, Jay’s wife, sits happily beside him, her memory clear, and happily serves everyone a scoop of her delicious oyster dressing. And everyone is asking if she brought her special angel pie for dessert, that none of us have ever been able to properly duplicate!

And of course, there are my mom and dad. How happy they look! Finally together after so many years. Daddy’s hair is dark and full, his eyesight perfect, and his headaches are forever gone. Once again he is with the family he loved and didn’t have nearly enough earthly time with.

My mother is beside him, smiling like I’ve never seen before, because she is finally reunited with the love of her life. Her hair is once again dark and wavy, her eyes still as blue, and her face unlined, her complexion as smooth as it was in the photo I have of their wedding day. And beside them are my brothers and sisters I never met, the babies she’d lost to miscarriages, now finally reunited with their parents, and, like everyone else at the table, begging for her “famous” cinnamon buns that she always made for every holiday dinner. And there were at least four trays of them, lovingly made for the family my mom still treasures.

There are a few empty seats there, waiting for other family members to join them. But that doesn’t put a damper on their celebration, because they know we’ll all be there one day.

And this is my Invisible table, with my family. They are all happy and smiling. They’re together again. And yes, I’m sure they remember us. They miss us, but they know they’ll see us again.

What about you? Do you have an Invisible table? Please feel free to share your stories with us, as I did, and as Mitch Albom did in “The Empty Table”.

Happy Thanksgiving! Be blessed!

A Little Girl’s Memories

Recently I attended the memorial service for a friend. My husband and I had actually helped with the couple’s wedding some eight years ago and had wonderful memories of their special day. You could tell how much they loved each other, and how excited they were to begin their new life together. All of their pictures featured big smiles and joyous laughter in anticipation of their new beginning together.

And they were very happy. They had two beautiful children, a daughter and then a son. Dad would tell everyone how lucky he was and how long he’d waited for this family of his; how proud he was of his wife and kids. He’d talk about all the things he did with them; and all the things he was looking forward to doing with his children as they got older. Taking his son fishing for the first time, and taking his little girl to her first daddy-daughter dance.

Now that’s all changed. Future plans will never happen. Because Daddy unexpectedly passed away just a few weeks after his little girl started first grade.

We all felt so bad for his widow, who’d lost the love of her life. We felt even sadder for his children who’d never have the opportunity to really know what a loving father they’d been blessed with.

As I sat at this man’s memorial service I couldn’t take my eyes off his children, sitting in the front row between their mom and their aunt, wearing their best clothes and looking, shall I say, a bit lost. And I wondered what they were thinking. Particularly his daughter.

You see, I knew quite a bit about what she was feeling. Because almost sixty years ago I was that little girl. And I have to say, even after all those years, the memories came flooding back.

It’s just not something you forget. Even as a child, such memories don’t totally fade with time. Even when your child’s mind doesn’t totally process it at the time, those memories are always there.

Sadly, our friend’s three year old son will most likely only remember his daddy because of photos and stories told by his mom and other family members. He’s just too young to really remember.

But his six year old daughter will be a different story.

She’s old enough to know that her dad is gone; that he’s not coming back home anymore. She knows he’s in heaven with the Lord, because she’s been told that many times; and she’s been taught that in Sunday School.

But she doesn’t understand it. Not really. She has a lot of questions that she doesn’t even know how to ask.

Well-meaning people have probably told her that her daddy is with the angels. Some may even have told her that her daddy is an angel now; that God needed another one so he took her dad because he was so special. Sometimes she worries that God might need another angel and take her to heaven as well, and she doesn’t think she’s ready for that. They often tell her how Daddy is watching over her and her little brother from up in heaven, hoping to make her feel better.

And this little girl nods her head as if she understands. But she doesn’t; not really. Her child’s mind just can’t totally comprehend all of it.

Even those of us who are mature in our faith sometimes have trouble understanding when it’s our loved one who’s passed away.

But there are things his daughter will remember when she’s older. It’s amazing, really, the things that stay with you. Things that may seem insignificant at the time will forever linger in your memory, and come out at the most unexpected times.

She’ll remember a few scattered times of fun, just between the two of them. Walking in the woods and talking about nothing important, except to them. Helping him put up the Christmas tree while mommy made dinner. The times he’d tuck her into bed at night and tell her how much he loved her as he kissed good night.

She’ll remember the last time she saw her dad, lying in a hospital bed with machines attached to him; she’ll remember that it just didn’t seem like the man she knew as “daddy”, and eventually she’ll wonder if it was really him.

She’ll also remember the exact words her mother said to her when she told her that her beloved daddy was gone. In fact, that’s one sentence she’ll remember for the rest of her life, and she’ll hear it in her mind over and over, as clearly and distinctly as if it were being spoken all over again.

That’s one sentence a child can’t forget. I haven’t. Because whether that child totally understands or not, she knows in her heart that things have suddenly and irreversibly changed.

Sadly, like me, his daughter won’t have years and years of memories to make with her dad. Many of the few memories she had will fade, and try as she might, they’ll never come back the way she’d like them to.

But she’ll always remember that day on the front row in that church, and remember how people were talking about her daddy, and how her mother kept trying not to cry, and so did she, because she wanted to be brave like her mommy.

I sadly have no remembrances of my dad’s service, because when he died I was quite sick and unable to attend. And children didn’t always go to funerals back then, even for their parents. But I remember the days immediately following his death and all the people who came to the house, talking to my mom and me, telling us how sorry they were. I, too, tried not to cry and be strong for my mother.

Because I just didn’t understand at the time what it all meant, and how it would affect my life. But there were a lot of nights afterwards that I lay in bed, curled in my mother’s arms as we comforted each other, and cried. And his daughter will, too.

She’ll feel terribly sad at Father’s Day and look at all the cards she’ll never be able to give to him, because he’s gone. And she’ll wish the day would hurry and get here so it could go away.

There will most likely be times she’ll imagine that her daddy didn’t really die; that he got sick and people took him somewhere else to live because he wasn’t going to get better, and he didn’t want his family to see him so sick. She’ll probably daydream about finding him one day, and how happy they’ll both be to find each other again.

Yes, I did that, too. And I imagine many other children do as well.

There will be lots of times she’ll be envious of her friends who still have their fathers, who go places with them. She’ll feel uncomfortable when an uncle takes her to the daddy-daughter dance at school instead of her father; or she won’t go at all because she’ll be secretly jealous of the other girls whose fathers were there with them.

There will also be the day when she’s ready to walk down the aisle on her wedding day. She’ll be so excited, but she’ll still feel a sense of loss that can’t be described, except by other daughters who’ve been there as well. And she’ll shed an extra tear because her daddy can’t walk her down the aisle. Her brother will stand in for him, but it won’t be the same.

Yes, all of these thoughts went through my mind that day, and I so wanted to take that little girl in my arms and hug her, hold her, and tell her she’ll be all right. That even in the lonesome times, the sad times when memories rush at you so quickly you’re not prepared for the impact; the times you see someone who reminds you of him, or see another daughter with her father and you want to be her…just for a second or two; to tell her in those tough times you’ll be ok. It won’t be easy, but you’ll be ok.

The death of a parent or a spouse…or even worse, a child…is an unimaginable pain. But when you’re just a little child, and you lose a parent, it’s a grief like no other. And sometimes it takes years before you can fully and totally grieve for them. For me it took almost 50 years, when while cleaning out my mother’s house I found the sympathy cards and funeral book she’d kept from that time so long ago. I read each card, and surprisingly remembered who some of some of the senders were, and read the names of the attendees. And I cried.

And cried some more. And finally, I truly grieved for my daddy.

I pray this little girl will have a much easier time as she goes through the next weeks and months. My heart goes out to her and her little brother as well. Yes, and to their mom. But those children…and that little girl…

Because I know what’s ahead for her.

But How Do I Know…..?

It’s a question I’ve been asked a lot recently. So have several of my friends. Because their parents or other loved ones are at that time in their life, or should I say almost at the end of their life.

And they’re not sure. They’re not certain. They don’t know for sure their loved ones will be going to heaven, because they don’t know their loved ones’ relationship with the Lord.

And it worries them. A lot.

Many times they won’t ask. They either don’t have that type of relationship with them, or they’re afraid of the answer. Or they don’t know what to say if the answer to their question isn’t what they hoped it would be. They can talk to people they barely know about their faith, share their love of the Lord with them, but when it comes to their own parents, their family, that’s a different matter.

Why? Are they too close to the situation? Or are they afraid of the answer? Or are they afraid they may have to go out on a limb and speak the words to them that come so easily when talking to strangers…and be scorned, made fun of, or worse, told to leave because no one wants to hear what they’re saying.

But this is a serious matter. It affects eternity. Their eternity as well as yours. Because you want your loved ones with you forever. And you want to be sure they’re going to be there with you.

However, you cannot truly know what is really in someone’s heart. Even when they tell you how they feel, and what they believe, sometimes they may not be telling you what they really believe. They may be telling you what you want to hear, or they may be baiting you, telling you something entirely different just to see what you’ll say.

Each of us has a relationship with the Lord. Yes, we do. Even those who profess they do not believe have a relationship with Him. It’s certainly a one way relationship, because the Lord continues to quietly speak to the non-believer, who turns a deaf ear to Him. But the Lord is still speaking in that one way conversation.

And those words are heard. They may be ignored, but they are heard, and unconsciously remembered in the back of the mind. And I dare say those words are remembered in those last few minutes of life. We don’t know what conversation takes place between that non-believer and the Lord at that point, but I have a feeling it’s totally different from any other conversation they’ve had.

Does a person have to profess publicly to someone else their beliefs in order to be accepted into heaven? I don’t believe I’ve seen that in scripture. In fact, the Lord spoke about praying in private so as not to be seen as boasting to others about how devout, how religious, they were.

Our relationship with the Lord is personal. And it should be. There’s nothing wrong with sharing it, but there’s nothing wrong with keeping quiet when you feel you should. There’s a difference in speaking out all the time and knowing when to speak out when others will be receptive.

Let me address another issue that so many of us are told at these times. And if I step on toes, then please, instead of telling me I’m totally off base, and blasting me for my beliefs, think about what I’m saying first.

For years I’ve heard from so many people, “Oh, that denomination…they aren’t real Christians. They don’t believe the right way like we do. They won’t be going to heaven.” “That person was a member of xxxx group, and they aren’t true Christians, in fact, they have idols in their meeting places, so they won’t be in heaven!” “So and so was Jewish, and never accepted Jesus, so she isn’t in heaven. No chance at all.” (So…what about all of the Jewish people murdered during the Holocaust? Aren’t the Jewish people God’s chosen people? I do believe He wouldn’t NOT have them with Him.)

Have any of you been told any of this, or had similar conversations about who’s going to Heaven and who isn’t? Yes, scripture tells us in John 14:6 that Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” And I believe that. We are also told that sinners cannot enter into His kingdom without repenting, and I believe that as well.

But who am I, and who are you, to say that we know exactly who’s going to heaven and who isn’t? I know what scripture says, but there are a lot of things I don’t know, and I cannot in any way say that I know totally who will be in eternity with me. I’m not God. I can only interpret His word how I interpret it. Interpretation is personal. And I cannot say I’m the only one who’s right, any more than anyone else can.

Here’s one other thing to think about. Does scripture say that someone has to make that decision at a certain time or it’s too late, and tell as many people as possible about it? What about the person on their deathbed that lapses into a coma? That person’s mind may still be consciously operating on some level, but we have no way of knowing, and they have no way of communicating with us.

But they most likely are communicating…just not with us. How do we know they aren’t communicating directly with the Lord? Just the two of them. A very personal and private conversation. Why would that be so difficult to believe?

How can we positively say we have all the answers? How do we know what is said between someone and the Lord when they are in the last seconds of transitioning between earthly life and eternity?

And how long are those last seconds in earthly time? After all, doesn’t scripture tell us in 2 Peter 3:8, “With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

Obviously the Lord has all the time He wants…and needs…to speak with us in those final seconds. All the time to extend His hand of love and forgiveness and give us that one last opportunity to realize Who He is, and why we should trust Him; why we should know Him as Lord.

Isn’t that all He wants from us? And it doesn’t matter how long or how little the time we’ve loved Him. That we do accept Him is all that counts.

So why would He not do anything and everything He can  to reach us; to touch our heart one last time and give us that final chance to love and trust Him as Lord.

And that’s exactly what I believe happens in those final moments if someone is not in a place of believing. That in those final moments He reaches out with His nail-scarred hands and says, “Come to me.” And in that final moment the non-believer most likely becomes a new believer, and eternity welcomes another soul.

He loves us all so much that He wants us all to be with Him. Isn’t that the Lord we serve?

Let me tell you a story. About fifteen years ago the husband of a coworker was seriously ill in the hospital. He’d undergone a heart transplant but unfortunately the heart wasn’t in as good shape as it should have been and the man never regained consciousness from the surgery. It had been three weeks, and we all knew he wasn’t going to be alive much longer barring a miracle. I was returning from lunch and entering the building when I very clearly heard a voice telling me, “Don’t worry. He’s with me now.”

What?

I didn’t put the pieces together until I got back to my desk and about twenty minutes later received the news that our coworker’s husband had died. Out of curiosity I asked what time. About five minutes before I heard those words “Don’t worry. He’s with me now.” This particular man had been raised Catholic but hadn’t been to any church in years, nor did he profess to have any faith, nor did his wife.

Coincidence? I think not at all. The Lord clearly told me what I needed to know, and what his widow needed to hear. Even though at the time she never believed a word I told her. I hope she does now. Or else she may be one of the ones the Lord has to reach out to at those very last few seconds. And I am quite sure that she will make the right decision when she comes face to face with Him.

You may or may not believe anything I’ve said, and that is your prerogative. But what is important is eternity. I want to spend it with my loved ones, my friends, and most importantly, with my Lord. I want to talk to family members I never met. I want to talk with so many people I’ve admired and respected from a distance. I want to run and laugh with the babies I miscarried, that I know are waiting for me.

I want to sit and talk with my Lord, and ask Him all the questions I’ve had over the years. Questions to which I’ll probably already know the answers before I even ask.

And I want to see so many others that I’ve known throughout my life that I’ve lost touch with, and tell them, “I knew you’d be here!”

So do you stop praying for your loved ones? Of course not. Your prayers are heard, and acted upon. Go forward with the hope that your loved ones, like mine, will make the right decision, even if it’s in the last few seconds of life.

Heaven will be a wonderful eternity. And I believe it will be full!

Letting Go

Sometimes there are decisions that adult children are called upon to make for their elderly parents or other close relatives.

Decisions no one should have to make.

Life or death decisions.

Sometimes they’re decisions set forth in a living will or an advanced medical directive. Those are somewhat easier, but not really. Not when you think about what you actually have to authorize, and what it means.

Sometimes, though, those decisions were not made in a living will or an advanced directive. Sometimes you’re called upon to make that decision because your loved one asks you to. Begs you to. And you have to make a choice between what you want, and what they want.

It’s not a good position to be in. It’s not a place you want to be. And it’s certainly not a decision you want to make. Because you’ll be the one who made that final decision, and there are a whirlwind of emotions that surround that decision.

Many years ago my elderly uncle who was in the last stages of Alzheimer’s went into a coma. He had a living will, and an advanced directive, both of which clearly stated he wanted no life-sustaining procedures done to keep him alive. No resuscitation; no feeding tube; no respirators. In short, he wanted to be able to pass from this life with whatever dignity remained.

His youngest sister, whom he had designated as his representative after his wife had died, couldn’t accept his wishes. She argued with the doctors and insisted a feeding tube be inserted. “I won’t let my brother starve to death!” she told them. She was in the process of calling an attorney to try and have his requests overridden when thankfully the Lord intervened and took my uncle Home.

However, what happens when your parent tells you she’s done. She’s had enough. No more respirator or dialysis. No more feeding tubes. She doesn’t want to live like that any more. You don’t blame her. But on the other hand…

You don’t want to be the one to tell the doctors. You don’t want to have that decision resting on your shoulders. You don’t want to be the one who’s responsible for her death. Even though you know that’s not really true, in your mind that’s what you’re thinking.

It puts you between a rock and a hard place, as the saying goes. You know she’s suffering; you know she’s miserable. And you know she won’t get any better. You also know you wouldn’t want to stay alive like that either.

What do you do?

I’ve counseled a number of women who’ve been in this position. It’s a hard place to be. I’ve talked with them before they made their decision, as well as afterwards. There is no one right decision because every situation is unique. And extremely personal. In fact, it’s one of the most personal you can ever make. And it’s not reversible.

One of the biggest problems, especially afterwards, is the huge feeling of guilt; the feeling that you and you alone were responsible for her dying. Many times other family members will tell you that as well, because they simply cannot accept the inevitable. They have to blame someone, rather than look at the overall situation and realize you were only carrying out your loved one’s wishes. Whether they were your wishes or not.

I am thankful I was not in that position with my mother. The Lord took care of her, and took her Home when she was ready. I honestly do not know how I would’ve handled such a decision had I been asked to make it, although she also had a living will and advanced directive. I do know, though, I would’ve been criticized, blamed, and called everything but a loving daughter by some of our other family members. Which would have made a bad situation far worse.

Advice? First let me say, none of us want to lose a loved one, particularly a parent. It doesn’t matter how old they are. We want them around forever. We want them to fight whatever is wrong with them, and we pray they’ll get better. But sometimes they don’t; sometimes it’s just time. They know it. And we know it in our hearts, whether our minds admit it or not.

Letting go is hard, but for those of us who know the Lord, we know it’s not goodbye; it’s not forever. It’s “I’ll see you later.” But we have to remember it’s not our decision; it’s theirs. We have to honor their wishes and put aside our own. Because one day we may be in their place, and we will want our children to do the same for us. We have to honor our parents’ wishes.

For anyone in this situation, my heart breaks for you, and I wish I could be with you to hold your hand and tell you it’ll be all right.

Because eventually it will be. When you meet again. And you’ll have eternity to make up for lost time.

Letting go is tough. And with God’s grace you will survive it.

And the reunion will be so very worth it.

Mom, I Wish I Could Tell You…

I have so much to tell you. Especially about last weekend. Do you know how many times I caught myself thinking…I have to remember to tell Mom that! Or, wait til I tell my mother about… Or, Mom will be so excited when I tell her who I saw…

But I can’t do that. Because you’re gone.

Even though it’s been ten years, I still have moments…lots of them…that I start to pick up my phone to punch in your number. I still remember it, you know. And probably will for many more years. That’s not something you forget when it’s been such a big part of your life.

But last weekend after my book signing, I really, REALLY have so much I want to tell you. So much I know you’d be happy to hear. So much I want to share with you.

Like my first visitors…a couple I’ve known for years. Now in their early eighties, but hardly looking even seventy. I remember when Emma and Joe were married. You and Daddy dressed up and left me to stay with my aunt and uncle while you went to the wedding. Before you left, Uncle Fowler took a picture of the two of you, and you can see me reflected in the mirror behind you, giggling like the little girl I was at the time. This couple had stories about you, and even more precious memories of my father, who had been a loyal customer at their family car dealership for many years. (Joe sold us my first car – a 1968 gold Camaro with a black vinyl top!) Mom, you would’ve loved to have seen them.

A lady who’d known you for years came by. She told me how as a young nurse she used to go to our house and give insulin shots to my grandmother when she’d lived with us. And as soon as she said that, I remembered her! I’m sure you would, too!

And Mom, a couple of ladies from your church came by as well, and told me how much they still missed you. One of them reminded me how you sat behind her every Sunday! (You all did make sure you sat in the same pew every week!) And did you know the church actually put the word out about my book signing in their bulletin? I couldn’t believe it!

Several of your former students also came by or called. They told me how much they loved you, and how you’d been their favorite teacher. How you gave them snacks every day, and taught them colors and numbers, and always made sure their day was fun!

One of your assistant teachers even came by and said you were the best teacher she’d ever taught with! And I’m sure you were!

I even got a personal note and book order when we got home from your former reading supervisor from your teaching days. She said the most wonderful things about you, including how honored she’d been to have worked with you!

And did you know some of my friends from high school had a reception for me afterwards? As you remember, a lot of them still live there, but several of them came back to town just to be there for us! Us. You and me.

Only you weren’t there. Except in our memories.

And my friends had wonderful memories of you, too.

Carol and Molly told me how you’d taught their daughters, and how one of those little girls had obviously never had to pick up her toys before. Until Mrs. Chapman taught her that’s what was expected!

Diane reminded me about the dining room set you’d given her when she and her husband were married almost 50 years ago! And she wanted me to know that same dining room set is now being used by their son and his wife. They just couldn’t bear to get rid of it. (And she bought three books! One for her and one for each of her sisters!)

I know you remember my high school best friend Laura. Of course you do. After all, her mom joined you in heaven about 6 months after you got there. She and I had a great time getting reacquainted after all these years. And I so hope we can continue to rekindle that relationship.

And my friend Jenny’s brother told us how his mom would let him walk across the field from their house to yours, watching him every second, of course, so he could go visit you. You’d give him milk and cookies and talk for a while, and then you’d walk him across the street and watch him cross the field to go back home. I’d never heard that story, but I can picture you doing it.

Everyone there remembered the parties you let us have in our basement rec room. We’d eat sandwiches and potato chips, listen to music, dance, and shoot pool for hours. Many of them remember going upstairs during the parties, just to talk to you for a few minutes, because, well, they just enjoyed your company.

Everybody loved you, Mom. I don’t think you had any idea how much.

I just wish I could tell you all about how wonderful it was to see so many people I grew up with, and how touched I was with their remembrances of you.

Many of them have already emailed me about how much they’re enjoying our story. And I’m so happy…I just wish you were here to enjoy it with me.

I miss you so much. But what an impression you made on so many people.

It was all worth it.

 

Note: Names of my high school friends have been changed. But you know who you are.

Sometimes the Memories…

Of what might have been…of what could have been…or what should have been… Of what will never be again.

Sometimes those memories are too painful to think about.

But we still do. It’s how we’re made.

We miss our loved ones so much…and there are still those times, no matter how many years it’s been, that we just need to hear their voice. That we need so desperately to talk to them, tell them our problems, and ask them what to do. Because they always had answers when we didn’t.

At times like this I try to imagine what my mother would tell me to do. What she’d say about the particulate problem I’m wrestling with. She’d have an answer; she always did. And usually she was right on the mark.

There are so many times I still wish I could ask her what to do. I wish I could dial her number just one more time, hear her say “hello”, and as soon as she’d hear my voice she’d know something was wrong. So I’d pour out my heart. And then hear her tell me….what? I’ll never know her answer to this problem…or others that will also present themselves from time to time.

I can’t hear that voice any more except in my heart, because she’s no longer here. And I miss her so much.

Yes, no matter how many months, how many years go by, nothing can replace that special bond we had. No one else, not even my husband, or my best friends, can give me the answers she did. And the problem I’m wrestling with right now can only be solved by my thinking the way she would have.

That’s easier said than done.

I’d also like to share my joys with her as well as my problems, but I can’t do that either. I can’t tell her about her beautiful great granddaughter, or what a good mommy her beloved granddaughter is. I can’t tell her how much our son in law loves that little girl, and what a proud daddy he is. I just hope she knows.

So tonight, as I sit here again missing my mother so much, all I can do is write this and tell her in my heart how much I miss her and how much I still love her.

And remind each of you reading this…don’t let time take away your opportunity to make memories…to ask questions. Or to just say “I love you.” Don’t waste even one day, because one day you won’t be able to make any more memories, and your loved one won’t be able to hear you say “I love you” any more.

Old Memories…New Traditions

The song starts off with: “It’s the most wonderful time of the year…” For many of you it is…the joys of Christmas with family and friends. Buying presents for loved ones. Holiday dinners and toasting for a new year filled with excitement. We see ads with happy faces and smiling families around the Christmas table. Old and young alike. It’s picture perfect.

Not for everyone though.

For many it emphasizes loss. What used to be and what will never be again.

And it hurts. A lot. This first holiday with missing loved ones is extremely painful. Grief hurts. Especially now. It’s no longer that most wonderful time of the year.

But we are still expected to function even as we are bombarded with reminders of what should be a happy time. All we can remember is what was, and is no more. All we have left of them are memories, and they aren’t here to make any more with us.

But Christmas comes whether you want it to or not. Maybe you don’t want to face it, but others around you who can’t totally understand your feelings are still filled with anticipation of the season. As much as you don’t feel joyous, you don’t want to spoil their happiness. But your happiness is so long gone…

While I can’t make it better, and I can’t make the hurt stop, I can give you some ideas of things we did that helped, as well as ideas from other friends.

A few years after Ashley was born, my mother had a friend knit Christmas stockings for each of us, including one for her that said “Grandmom”. The first Christmas without her, I couldn’t not hang it up; it just didn’t feel right. So hers was, and still is, in the middle of our stocking display, with a spray of red silk roses in it, her favorite flower. The Willow tree angel holding the rose on our mantle was the last one I’d given her on Mother’s Day, and stands watch over our stockings. This is the ninth Christmas without her, and that stocking is filled every year with those roses. I’m sure she’d approve.

That first year we marked a gift for each of us “From Mom” or “From Grandmom.” The funny thing is, I did it for Ben and Ashley, and didn’t tell them in advance what I was doing. Ben also did it for me without letting on to Ashley. We even gave her dog a gift and told her it was from my mom! (No, I’m sure she didn’t understand, but it made us feel better, since she had always bought Angel a Christmas toy or two!)

When I was packing up her house I had found several Christmas cards she’d bought and probably forgot where she’d put them, so I signed her name and gave them to Ben and Ashley that first year; one read “For my wonderful Granddaughter…” I think Ashley still has it.

We had also brought the Christmas ornaments home she’d used on the little tree in front of her fireplace. Ashley and I divided them up and used them on our trees. This year she proudly hung the one we gave them for expecting their first baby beside the last ornament she had given my mother…that said “Best Grandmother”. Several of my friends use their mother’s ornaments on their trees as well, and one friend actually uses all her mom’s ornaments on a tree dedicated to her mother. Another friend has taken several small collectibles that belonged to her mother and used them for Christmas ornaments.

Some people put framed pictures of their loved ones on the holiday tMemory Photoable as a way of still having them join the family. I tried it for two minutes; it was too painful, but it may not be for others. In a similar fashion, others elect to display a picture of their loved one near their tree or other place of honor, with Christmas décor around it, and sometimes even a small wrapped box as a memorial gift.

Other families have also taken special items that belonged to their loved one, and given them as Christmas gifts to family members that first year, including a note about why the item was chosen for them. One friend gave a mixing bowl to her mother’s sister, with a note telling her how she remembered watching her mom make her sister’s favorite recipe in that bowl, and she wanted her to have it as a remembrance. What she hadn’t known, was that bowl had originally been given to her mother by that sister, as a birthday gift.

I have also talked to families who would write a brief letter to their loved one every year, tie it to a helium balloon, and release it on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, as their gift to them.

Another family I know, whose mother was dying of cancer, recorded her reading “The Night Before Christmas” before she passed away, so that she could still continue her tradition of reading it to her grandchildren every year.

I have also h51oDJOG76fLeard of families asking friends and relatives to write a handwritten note with a memory of their loved one at the holiday season, along with a picture if they have one, and bring it to the holiday dinner. The notes are collected and placed in a basket to be read privately during the evening, or they can be read aloud for all to hear; personally I would handle it privately, as my voice still sometimes chokes when I talk about my mother, and it’s been nine years. The notes can later be made into a scrapbook or other memory book, which can be displayed each year as another special remembrance.

Many people advise grieving families to start entirely new traditions that will help ease the sadness, rather than try to do what you would normally have done when your loved one was still here. But that decision is entirely yours; there is no right or wrong way to survive holiday grief. However you choose to handle it is the right way for you, and it should be your decision.

I know it’s hard. But one thing I kept telling myself that first year, is that my mother would not have wanted us to mourn her, or be sad in any way. She would not have wanted us to do anything different just because she wasn’t around. So we chose to remember her and honor her in ways that fit her unique personality and character. And I truly believe she would have been pleased…except for the times I cried for her privately.

This year, however, will be a bit different. Because this year we will have our first grandchild, our granddaughter Rachel, who is named after my mother, celebrating with us. I cannot help but wish my mother were still here with us to see her great granddaughter, her namesake. I know how excited, and how proud she would be of her. But I also know she is celebrating Christmas in a way I can never imagine, and I know she is also watching us from heaven during those special moments the Lord allows. I know she is smiling and excited, and so very happy to see that her beloved granddaughter Ashley now has a daughter of her own.

However, the joy of our granddaughter still does not take away all of the pain of missing my mother. Because the loss is still there.

I’m sorry, Mom, but I’ll always miss you….Missing Mom Christmas