Parents, Hold Your Children Close

Yesterday morning our 6 year old granddaughter had her kindergarten graduation ceremony. Proud parents and grandparents, along with various other family members and friends filled the auditorium as six kindergarten classes filed onto the stage for their big morning. Some 70 children total.

And then the emotions hit me, along with a lot of others in that auditorium. We had all driven to the elementary school, driven past those flags at half mast at so many locations. We knew what had happened the day before, and we were still reeling from it all. 

And then we saw our kids, grandkids, excited children getting ready to move up to first grade…the new class of 2034, as the principal later said.

And then the emotions came, as the ceremony started with a moment of silence for those young lives lost so tragically in Texas the day before, along with two of their teachers.

I looked at those precious children, my oldest granddaughter and her little friends, many of whom I knew as well. And the enormity of what had happened some mere 24 hours earlier hit me like a ton of bricks.

Each of those young lives had once sat on a stage very much like this, with their families in attendance, cheering them on after their first year in school…kindergartners graduating to first grade. Their lives and bright futures ahead of them.

But no one knew what would happen in the next several years. No one suspected or even imagined what would take place, forever wiping out the smiles of these children, forever destroying their families. Their parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters losing a part of themselves.

The loss is incomprehensible. The grief unimaginable. And I found myself near tears as I silently prayed protection over these precious children in front of me.

I cannot begin to understand, or to even imagine how those families feel. I cannot imagine how they themselves will survive the next few days, weeks, months, and yes, even years, as they try to cope with such senseless and devastating loss. 

And yes, we were all proud of our little graduates today, and cheering on their achievements. Wondering what their futures hold for them as future scientists, doctors, astronauts, musicians, teachers…and what great things they will accomplish.

At the same time we mourn the loss of those other future scientists, doctors, etc. who will never see those goals accomplished. And the world is a darker place because of it.

These senseless and selfish acts of violence perpetrated by a hatred so unimaginable must stop, and it must stop now. Before other precious lives are lost. 

I do not pretend to have a solution. This person who committed this heinous crime bought the weapons legally. Gun laws didn’t stop him. I have to believe he was severely mentally disturbed. Why did no one see that? And where were the security guards at the school? Would metal detectors have helped? I think they would have. 

Hindsight is 20-20, as we know. We can unfortunately not change the past. But we MUST change the future somehow and determine how to protect these precious children that have been entrusted to us. This cannot continue.

Parents, hold these precious ones close. Tell them you love them every chance you get. And when you’re upset with them, and at your wit’s end, remember that these little ones are a precious gift that needs to be appreciated and loved every day. 

Because in this world, we just don’t know….

May God bless all of these families whose lives will never be the same. And please, let’s all stop the finger pointing and work together to find a solution to this madness. 

Our futures are at stake…and our most precious gift, which are our children.

Still Missing You

It’s now been almost sixteen years since I last spoke to you. Since I was last able to hug you and kiss you. Talk about life and share stories.

It’s been too long since I was last able to talk to you about things I was going through; that I needed your advice about. And there have been so very many times in these last almost 16 years that I’ve needed to talk to you. To tell you what’s going on. 

To tell you about our happy times. About your granddaughter’s wedding and her wonderful husband. To tell you about your two beautiful great granddaughters, one who’s named after you.

To tell you about your friends and what’s been going on in their lives.

To ask for your guidance and advice, because even though I’m an adult, and now a grandmother as well, I still want so much to be able to talk with you and ask for your help. 

Although I’ve been on my own without you for all this time, it doesn’t mean that I don’t still want your insight on life. I miss being able to talk about my problems with you. Because you always seemed to have the right answers, whether I understood it at the time or not.

You and I survived the untimely loss of my father together. You were there for me while your own heart was shattered into a zillion pieces, and while I didn’t totally understand the whole situation and what it meant, since I was only 8 years old, you hid so much pain from me so I could have as normal a childhood as possible, with you being mom as well as dad to me.

It wasn’t until I lost you that I discovered all the challenges and problems you faced during that time. You never told me, and I’d never asked.

You helped me through two painful divorces and never once criticized my choices. You helped me through heartbreak and encouraged me that I’d eventually find the right one. And you were right.

You were with me when my husband Ben went through his first open heart surgery, at a time when that was not a common operation. You were probably as worried as I was, but you never told me. You only encouraged me and assured me he’d be okay. And he was.

You supported me in the pain of infertility; you rejoiced with me when I finally got pregnant and gave you a granddaughter. And you suffered with me when I had a tubal pregnancy which caused me to lose the babies I was carrying, and almost caused me to lose my mind. Because you knew exactly how I felt, because you’d had the same problems, but had kept them all to yourself.

You loved your granddaughter unconditionally and did everything you could for her. And you would have been so very happy to see her married and now with two little girls of her own.

So many times I’ve wanted to be able to tell you. To share with you, and ask what advice you could give in so many situations. Or just listen to me share my joys as well as my worries.

I miss you so much. Holidays and family times are still not the same without you. I still miss your smile, your presence, and your unconditional love. I still dream about your being with us, and wake up wondering if that dream was sent to me to remind me you’re still watching over me. There are even times, when out of nowhere, I clearly hear your voice saying my name. 

I will continue to miss you because we are part of each other. I will always love you. And I will never forget you.

And I know the day will come when we are together again. Until then,

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. I love you.

A Gift from the Bridge

A few weeks ago we had the story of the welcoming party that each of our beloved pets experience when they cross over the Rainbow Bridge. How those cherished fur babies are welcomed into their waiting area by all of their friends who’ve crossed over before them, waiting not only for their other furry friends but for their beloved owners to come for them one day.

You see, the Rainbow Bridge is the entrance to a very special place where our pets go to wait for us to join them. An almost magical place of beauty and joy, where these beloved animals are not only free to play and enjoy a freedom they’ve never known before, but a place where they’re not only our furry companions, but where they’re also gifted with special abilities that they didn’t have on earth.

Abilities they had no idea were possible until they crossed the Bridge. 

Not only are they now able to speak to each other in ways never before possible, but they’re also able to help their beloved owners cope with losing them in ways no one would imagine. 

No, it’s not something magical, because magic really doesn’t exist. It’s something similar; something that can only be caused by a Creator who is so much more than any of us can begin to imagine. Our Creator loves every part of His creation, from those of us who are human, to those He created to love us in ways that only beloved pets can do.

We know our pets love us unconditionally. And we love them as well. But they leave us far too early. And even though they do, they don’t want us to be forever grieving for them. Because once they cross the Bridge they know for certain we’ll all be reunited again.

It’s those of us who loved them that are still here on earth that really can’t understand.

But Rusty and his best brother-friend Rudder know. And they also knew their owners needed a new friend, not only for them, but for Drake, their other doggy-brother who was now alone, except for his human family. They’d been a special threesome, and Rudder and Rusty knew there was only one thing to do.

And they didn’t want to wait.

They were told about a young pup, about 4 months old, who was in danger of having to leave his current home. He’d only been there about two months, and had just adjusted to being away from his brothers and sisters, but his new owners couldn’t keep him because he was going to be bigger than their apartment complex allowed.

This poor pup was facing being put in a shelter for who knew how long unless his owners found him a new home. And quickly.

This pup also happened to be a yellow lab-golden retriever mix. Rudder was a yellow lab and Rusty was a golden retriever. After the two dogs heard about this pup, there was no doubt in their minds. He had to be connected with their human family. 

And after a short talk with the Creator, the wheels were set in motion for this young pup to end up with Rusty and Rudder’s human family.

Just like it had been planned, Ashley and Chris saw an ad online about the pup. And they knew it was meant to be. The perfect combination of both of their beloved dogs.

They looked at pictures and videos of the pup. So much like the best of their lost fur babies. 

So a few days later, Tucker joined his new family. It was like he already knew them. When he met his new fur brother Drake, they immediately got along. Not one mean growl. They both knew it had been planned.

Rudder and Rusty watched from the Bridge, as the Creator normally allowed in times like this. They smiled, as only dogs can do. They were happy that they’d sent the right one, not to take their places, but to be a perfect new companion for not only their human family, but for their brother Drake.

They watched as the two dogs got acquainted, and their human family as well, and acknowledged the bond that immediately formed because of the gift from their heavenly brothers at the Rainbow Bridge. 

“We did good,” said Rudder and Rusty to each other. And they went off to play with their other friends, knowing they’d made everyone happy.

Welcome to the family, Tucker.

When They’re Ready…But We’re Not

There comes a time in many of our family members’ lives when enough is enough. There’ve been too many times of unrelenting pain; too many trips to the hospital; too many times that the doctors say, “someone needs to make some major decisions.”

Too many times our loved ones are put through painful and embarrassing procedures to keep them here with us for a while longer. When all they really want to do is rest. Forever.

Because they’re tired. They don’t want to live like they’re living any more. They want to eat and drink normally without fear of choking or vomiting. They want to be able to walk on their own. To have a normal conversation without gasping for air or coughing uncontrollably. They want to be able to breathe without having a machine doing it for them, They don’t want to be in constant pain which can only be dulled, never really going away.

They just don’t want to be here anymore. And who can really blame them? Would we want to live like that?

Before you start saying that what I’m writing is wrong, cruel, or even anti-Christian, try to put yourself in their situation. Because one day you may be there.

We are never ready to say goodbye to our loved ones, especially our parents. Those of us who are fortunate enough to be blessed with one or both parents who live long lives expect them to be around forever. We want them to be, because the pain of losing them is too hard to bear. We don’t know how we’ll make it without them.

That’s being selfish. Because we’re only thinking of how we’ll react, how we’ll feel. We don’t stop to think about their wishes.

They want to “go home”. And not to the home they’ve been living in for so many years. They want to go to their eternal home, and be free again, pain free, with a new body that works properly. They want to join their loved ones who are waiting for them, and they want to be with their Lord.

My mother went through that. She told me that, in no uncertain terms. But did I want to hear it? Absolutely not. Did I know she was serious? Absolutely.

Did that make it easier? Of course not.

Fortunately I was never faced with those difficult end of life decisions that some of my friends are now facing with their loved ones. Because my mother passed into eternity before those decisions were needed.

And I’m sure that’s the way she wanted it.

Like many of us, my mother had a living will, an advanced medical directive. She had named me her medical power of attorney years before she’d ever been sick. And if you or your loved ones don’t have such directives, I strongly urge you to get them.

Because you never know when you may need them.

Although we’re all living longer, and many of us enjoying fairly decent health into those later years, our bodies do not live forever. They were not designed to live forever. Eventually they wear out and just can’t be repaired any more.

We pray for healing, not realizing that many times in these situations healing takes on different meanings, and our loved ones go on to eternal health.

But before this happens, quite often end of life decisions must be made. And it’s not easy, no matter how strong our faith, no matter how much we know in our head that such decisions must be made. Our emotions, our hearts, don’t want to go there.

Sometimes it’s not or parents, but our spouse. That’s just as hard, and sometimes harder, because we really don’t expect our spouse to pass asway before we do. We need him or her with us. For better or worse. But that vow also added til we are parted by death. We tend to forget that part.

However, we have to accept the decisions our loved ones make. Whether we agree or not. And that is part of honoring our parents, our elderly relatives. Or a spouse with an incurable disease.

Palliative care and hospice care are two options most of us don’t want to hear about, nor consider. But it is a reality, and one that more and more people are having to face for either their loved ones, or themselves. It’s not a decision made easily, or in haste. But it sometimes must be made.

It’s not easy. It’s also not easy watching someone you love dearly suffer. And I daresay none of us would want to be the one who’s suffering so badly.

No matter how much we love them; how much we don’t want to let them go, there’s a point that our love has to love them enough to let them go. To let them be at peace.

Those of us who have faith know in our hearts we’ll see them again. But it doesn’t make it easier.

To all of you going through it, or who have gone through it, be assured you did the right thing. No matter how difficult it was.

Be comforted in that realization.

Party at the End of the Bridge

Somehow they all knew. They knew who was coming and they knew when. The guest of honor didn’t know of course, but then again, they never did.

But the other residents of that land just beyond the Rainbow Bridge knew, and as is the custom, the pets already there were waiting for their special friends to join them and welcome them to their new home; to make them feel loved and special until their earthly owners came to get them to take them with them to THEIR forever heavenly home.

And today was no different from any other welcome home party at the end of the Rainbow Bridge. The only thing different was who the guest of honor the party was for, and of course who was planning it, and who would be attending.

You see, every beloved pet who crosses over the Rainbow Bridge has a welcoming party with his or her friends who have already crossed over. It’s a tradition that’s been going on as long as the Bridge has been around, which is a very, very long time. Pets come and go all the time because as we said earlier, they leave and join their former earthly family eventually in their eternal home, but until that day happens, these beloved pets enjoy a life of pure happiness, playing in meadows, chasing birds and squirrels, playing with favorite toys, swimming…all the things they enjoyed previously with their earthly family. Only now they’re healthy and pain free, able to do and eat anything they want.

Today’s big party was for a special golden retriever. His best friend Rudder knew he was coming, and he was planning the party. Rusty’s favorite thing to do was swimming in his owners’ parents’ pool with Rudder, so this party was going to be held at one of the many luxurious swimming pools available in the land beyond the Bridge. He couldn’t wait to welcome his old friend and find out how their earthly family was doing. Rusty’s friend Samantha was also helping plan the party, and there were lots of other furry friends attending, including Rusty’s litter mates who he hadn’t seen since he was adopted 11 years ago.

What a celebration it would be!

Rudder and his friends made sure the pool was sparkling clean. They hung balloons all around. They even had a huge sign that said “Welcome Rusty”! There were presents, too. Tennis balls, golf balls since he liked to chew those, stuffed chew toys that he could chew and destroy like he did before. There was a little garden with freshly planted bushes that he could dig up, just like he used to do that so irritated his family. 

And then there was the food. His favorite dog treats, bowls of ice cream, along with a huge cake, just waiting for him to smash into and share with his friends!

The dogs looked at their handiwork and knew it was ready for him. They all lined up, with Rudder and Samantha in the front. Waiting expectantly.

And then…the Rainbow Bridget began to light up, like it does when a new pet comes across. The dogs held their breath and watched.

And then Rusty came across it. A smile on his face. Walking easily. His fur was clean and shiny. His eyes were bright. His teeth shiny white, as they held a tennis ball he’d already picked up along the way.

He saw Rudder and his other friends and ran to them, and what a reunion it was!

“This is all for you,” Rudder explained. “Here we’re all happy, healed, and pain free. We play with each other while we wait. I’ve missed you,” he added.

“I’ve missed you, too,” Rusty said. “And they haven’t forgotten you. They miss you as well.”

“We’ll be with them again,” Rudder explained. “But for now, we play, we have a great time together, and we go swimming!”

Rusty looked around and saw the huge pool. He took off running and jumped in, just like he used to do with his family. He was so happy. The other dogs joined him and soon the pool was full of wet splashing dogs, having the time of their new lives.

The Rainbow Bridge seemed to smile at them as it waited for the next visitor to come across. It’s a happy place, you know. Where all of our beloved pets go while they wait for us.

To Rusty, and Rudder, and all our wonderful pets who are living there now…we miss you, but we will be with you again. Until that time, enjoy your new temporary home. While we remember you in these pictures.

When Holidays Make Us Remember

For me, it happens just about every year around this time. Thanksgiving is done, and leftovers have been enjoyed. Black Friday shopping is thankfully over. And the decorating is finally over.

Getting out the tree, or trees, in our case, starts it all.  As I unwrap certain ornaments I can’t help but remember where I got them, and the story behind them. I remember the ones that were my grandmother’s, and my mother’s. The ones my mother bought for us, and ones she’d given us for her granddaughter, especially the baby’s first Christmas series. And my eyes almost always get a little damp….

I really think I’m over the loss, the emptiness of my mom being gone; of our traditions being over, or, I guess I should say, carried on in new ways. But then I realize I will never be totally over it, because you never are. The loss, and the memories, are always there. Even this close to Christmas itself, I still feel it the loss.

It’s not just her empty place at our table; her not being around for our traditional Black Friday shopping; her name no longer on our gift list. Her Christmas stocking still hung, except now filled with her favorite red roses (silk, of course) rather than gifts.   Not being able to go to her house during the holidays. Her not being with us Christmas morning to watch presents being opened. She’s certainly with us in spirit, and always will be.

It’s the knowing she won’t be here ever again to share the joys of the holidays with us in our new ways. Her precious granddaughter Ashley is now married, with two beautiful daughters of her own. She never got to meet our Chris, or their little girls Rachel and Ryleigh. My mother would have been over the moon in love with our little girls, and I’m sure she would delight in everything our granddaughters (her great-granddaughters) did, every gift they opened, just like she did with our daughter every Christmas. She’d have sat and played with them all day, while the rest of us prepared dinner. I can even picture the three of them playing together in the stack of new toys Santa delivered for the girls, with so much laughter and so much joy. She’d act like a little kid, right along with them.

My mom never laughed or smiled a lot after my dad died, but at Christmas time, when she had her granddaughter Ashley with her, that’s all we saw. Smiles and happiness. Laughter. Even when our toddler daughter was having a temper tantrum while shopping, or doing something else that wouldn’t necessarily put her on Santa’s “good list”, my mother just smiled and said, “She’ll be fine. Just let her be.” And she was.

I so miss those days. And I think of them even more often now that we have granddaughters who are so much like their mother. I just can’t help wishing “if only my mother could be here….”

But the past is the past, and as much as we wish, and dream, we can’t change it. We can’t bring our loved ones back, as much as we’d like to. We can only imagine how things would be, picture them in our minds, and treasure them in our hearts.

No matter how old I get, no matter how many years will have passed, I will still have these feelings. They’re part of me; part of who I am. No matter how many years have passed I will still picture my mother the way she looked during her last years. Except her face will have softened, the lines disappeared, and that beautiful smile she had whenever she was with our daughter will be lighting up her entire being.

I wonder if some day our daughter, and our granddaughters, will have these thoughts, these feelings. Especially, many years from now, as they pull out the Christmas ornaments that used to be ours, and place them on their Christmas trees. Will they remember? Will they long for those “old days” as I still do?

The holidays are not only a time of joy and excitement. It’s also a time for dreams; for family; and for memories that we’ll treasure forever.

What memories do you treasure most from Christmases past? What are the things you’d most like to be able to re-live? And what memories do you hope your children and grandchildren will most remember about you?

Merry Christmas, and may this year be joyous and full of making wonderful memories.

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!