Showing posts with label grief. Show all posts
Showing posts with label grief. Show all posts

Saturday, April 15, 2017

When Grief Invades Easter

FTC disclaimer:  This post contains affiliate links.

I wanted to write, again, about grief and the holidays.  Most people think of grief associated with Christmas, but any holiday can bring up forms of grief.

It's important to have compassion on yourself.  Twenty two years ago, Easter was on April 16, the same as the year I am writing this.

A friend went to church with me that morning, and we heard the glorious story of Jesus conquering death.  I Corinthians 15:55 was shouted from the rooftops.  "Oh death, where is thy sting?  Oh grave, where is they victory?" (KJV)  The triumphant songs signaled the ending of Lent and the start of celebration.  The toe-tapping, joyful songs associated with this glorious day.   April 1995 was the last time I sat in an Easter service without grieving.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

In Memory of Donnie Williams

I don't remember meeting Donnie.  As an active teenager in district events in the Church of the Nazarene in the 1980s, there were all these kids from different churches at events and over time you got to know them.  That's how I met Donnie.  We went to summer camp together, and I think, like many girls, I had a tad bit of a crush on him.  I mean, who wouldn't?  He was adorable, tremendously funny, and had a spiritual side of him that I wished would be shown by the boys in my youth group who were more interested in armpit farts than actually worshiping during the Sunday morning church service.

I never admitted my small teen crush to Donnie, although I often joked with him that I fell for him.  Indeed I did.  The camp tabernacle had a cement floor painted gray.  I remember the ash color vividly.  It was Thursday night of camp, my last camp before heading to college, and I was trying to make sure I said goodbye to everyone before service that evening because I knew Friday mornings were hectic and not conducive to departing sentiments.  There had been a thunderstorm and rain had blown into the area in front of the pews.  We were required to dress up for evening church at that time, and my dress shoes were not a good combo.  As Donnie and I separated from a hug, I took a step back and forgot momentarily about the slick floor. . . until I landed at his feet.  Evidently he had girls falling for him all the time, because by the time social media was invented and we reconnected, he had completely forgotten (or blocked) the incident from him memory.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Embracing Grief at the Holidays

I think most of us can remember a time we loved the holidays.  Santa Claus. Our grandparents giving us huge hugs -- and even bigger gifts.  The smells of the once a year treats from the oven, and laughter of cousins.  I think for many of us somewhere along the way the magic of Christmas has turned into dread or endurance.

My husband and I didn't put up a Christmas tree this year.  It has always been my favorite part of Christmas.  I love looking through the ornaments and remembered so many good times.  The doll my 2nd grade teacher made out of a pack of lifesavers and a styrofoam ball head.  Yes, I have a roll of 33 year old candy in my Christmas decorations.  I loved my teacher, and the fact she made something for me was so special.  (She made one for each of us in our class.)But then there are the other ornaments.  Childhood creations from people who won't speak to me any longer.  Ornaments bought on years the holidays wouldn't be considered "good".  The year a family member threw out all the gifts I gave him.  

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Book Review: And It Was Beautiful by Kara Tippetts

FTC disclaimer:  I was provided with an ebook from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.  All opinions are my own.  This post contains affiliate links.

I'd heard of Kara Tippetts when I picked up And It Was Beautiful: Celebrating Life in the Midst of the Long Good-Bye.  I knew Kara Tippetts had passed away.  I knew she had blogged through her illness with breast cancer.  That was about the extent of my knowledge about her.  I hadn't read any of her books, even when my friends were raving about them.   I had lost my mother the year her book The Hardest Peace was released.  There was just no way I could read about someone dying when I had just lived through that with my mother, no matter how amazing the book was.  Ever feel like you're on the outside looking in?  I felt like I was the only one of my friends who hadn't read her book.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Why your Passwords should be in a Safe Place in case of Death

FTC disclaimer:  Many of my posts contain affiliate links.

In February 2014, my mother passed away.  After that, I started preparing things I never would have thought of in the event of my untimely demise.  My mother had been ill for a long time, and was not very computer savvy,  which made things easier in the online world.

Someone logged her out of every one of her accounts AND passworded her computer the night she passed away.  Yes, I know someone else did this and my mother didn't -- it was passworded AFTER my mother was pronounced dead.

First, the password that was put on Windows was able to be taken off by a computer expert.  The cost of this was about $100.  My mother was a writer and had many unpublished works on her hard drive, so the cost was well worth it as I hope to publish them posthumously.  In fact, my mother made me repeatedly promise I would do so.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Some Wounds Time Never Heals

FTC disclosure:   This post may contain affiliate links.

Photo courtesy Kelley Bittner Photography
October 7th.   Just another day in the life for most people, but on this day in 2006, I will never forget seeing my dad alive for the last time.  I held his hand, told him I loved him, and sang "Found a Peanut" to him.  (He used to sing that incessantly when I was little, and it was my turn!)  It was before I had a cell phone, most people didn't at that time, and my mother was talking to her sister.   I knew the moment my dad passed away.  I recount the story in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Messages From Heaven so I won't go into the story here, but when Mom got off the phone, there was a message for me to call Dad's nursing home.

Time doesn't heal all wounds.  It's a nice cliche.  I think this last year has been the worst with missing my dad since he passed away.  I have cried many an evening and have said, "I wish I could talk to Dad."   I got married -- a lifelong dream of mine -- and I had to settle for a photo of my father being walked down the aisle.  No matter how close the friend is who gave me away "on behalf of her parents", it's not the same as having Dad there.   Dad was big as life and twice as loud.  I can only imagine how loud he would have laughed at the master illusionist we had as our wedding entertainment instead of dancing.

Earlier this year I entered a contest where I won a $500 jewelry gift card.  I had to take a photo of a piece of jewelry that is special and tell the story behind it.  My dad's class ring which he lost when he was fighting a fire in the early 1960s which was returned to him in the mid 2000s was the subject of my entry.  I bought my husband's and my wedding rings with that gift card.  It was like Dad gave us a wedding gift.  But I still wish he would have been at my wedding.

Although, as I mentioned in the post I wrote entitled Our Slice of Eternity, it felt like we were in the midst of a great cloud of witnesses.  Some who went before us, some who will come after we are gone.  I could see my parents' grave from where we got married, and it felt as if their love was present that day.   But I still wish I could have had Dad walk me down the aisle.

Friday, July 3, 2015

The Land of the Living

I woke this morning with an old Christian song going through my head, "It's time to get back to the land of the living".   While the song actually talks about is forgiveness, but I keep thinking about "The Land of the Living".

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Honoring Your Parents at Your Wedding When Both are Deceased

Photo Courtesy of KBittner Photography
FTC disclaimer:  I received the photo frames from Reed & Barton in exchange for this post.  All ideas and opinions are my own.

When I was planning my wedding, I spent hours online trying to find ideas to honor both of my parents at my wedding.  I found ideas to honor a parent who is deceased, but no ideas when you are trying to honor both parents.   I spent almost more time on this part of wedding planning than any other.   I wanted to do something  touching, have them a part of the ceremony, but didn’t want to turn the celebration into a memorial.

We started by having a page each in our wedding bulletins in memory of them.  We included biographical information, a fun story, a photo individually and their wedding photo which my husband and I recreated at the cake cutting.

Monday, May 4, 2015

The Day I left Church in Tears

I'm 41 years old, and I'm getting married for the first time in nineteen days.  I never expected to be this old and just now getting married, but my mother had a lot of health problems and once the time was right and I met my boyfriend, my mother asked him to move here and help take care of her.  I had been taking care of her myself but  it was too much for me to handle at that point without help.  She didn't want to live her final days in a nursing home.  I honored my mother's wishes, and my boyfriend did, too.  Between the two of us, we were able to keep her at home.  To me, it was the right thing to do, and I felt I was doing what God wanted for me as well.  She passed away at home, while I was at a small group from church.

Last Mother's Day was the first without her.   I headed to the first service our church holds, and it being on a Saturday I thought I was "safe".  I remembered how my mother said in her childhood church every woman got a carnation -- one color if your mother was living and another if your mother was deceased.  I thought about how difficult it would be the first year to wear the deceased color.

Nothing was said about Mother's Day all through the service.  But at the end.  Oh, how I wish I had left early.  Our church had about 50 in that service, and the mi
nister called all mothers up to the front.  I was the only adult woman left in the pews.  It was all men and me.  (I don't recall any children being at that service.)  I felt so singled out when every woman but me was called to the front.  Every woman but me received a flower.   It was uncomfortable, but I've dealt with that for years.  It doesn't matter how much you may want a child, at most churches I've been to only those who have children either biologically or adopted are honored.  (I've often wondered how women who have no children with them but have given a child a chance at a better life by releasing them to be adopted feel when all mothers are to stand.)
Mom and me after she was on dialysis for a couple years.

I was the only woman who was not given a flower.  I was the only woman looking on at all the other women while the minister did a mini-sermon about how being a mother and raising a child is God's highest calling.   (Isn't the calling God has on your life His highest calling for you?  And my calling is not what someone else's calling is so why should we say what is God's highest calling?)    My fiance tried to comfort me, but that only made it worse.  I was in absolute tears.  So much so that one of the women brought her flower to me, the childless one.

Isaiah 51:4 says it beautifully:

Rejoice, childless one, who did not give birth; burst into song and shout, you who have not been in labor! For the children of the forsaken one will be more than the children of the married woman," says the LORD."   (NLT)

Yet, it sometimes feels that churches forget this verse.  I have a friend named Leslie who is an amazing children's volunteer in her church.  She's still single.  Do you think the dozens of children she has ministered to would not rise up and call her blessed?  (Proverbs 31) I know I feel that way about the children's and youth workers I have had in my growing up years.  Leslie has children -- just in a different way -- their parents trust her with their child's spiritual education each week.  Mother's Day is just as much about Leslie as it is the woman who gave birth.  Let's begin to recognize that fact, and honor the sacrifices people like Leslie make.  We met at a retreat and she said how much she loved the times of worship because it was so seldom she was able to be in an adult worship service.

Last year after the minister finished his mini-sermon on motherhood being the highest calling in a woman's life, church was dismissed.  I want children.  I spoke to my doctor today about the possibilities and risks of trying to have a child.  I'm 41 and have health problems.  From the sounds of things, it likely won't happen.  We hope to adopt.  But until now God's highest calling for me was taking care of my ailing mother.   I couldn't have cared for her the way she needed if I would have had children.

Ours was the first of four church services over Mother's Day weekend last year.  As I left the church, I mentioned to the minister that he might want to be aware that there are women who want children and can't have them and hearing that motherhood was God's highest calling might not be the best way to honor mothers.  I was met with silence and a blank stare.

As soon as I got to the car, I announced I was never again attending church on Mother's Day as it was too painful.  I went home and went to bed.  My fiance had the next day off work and wanted to see me busy so we did a day of geocaching until we were exhausted.

Let's remember that God calls different people to different things.  Mother's Day can be a difficult day for various reasons.  Infertility, singleness, miscarriage.  I'm not saying to not  honor mothers but I'd love to see churches be mindful of the pain this day can cause, and let's also remember the Leslies in our church, the single women who give so much to the children.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Observing Advent -- for the first time

In the non-denominational church I grew up in, Advent was never mentioned.  When I started going to a Nazarene Church, the Advent candles were lit by people who attended the church.

But I never realized it was a time of longing for hope.

Yet O Come, O Come Emmanuel is my favorite Christmas Carol.  Or is it?  It's an Advent song.

I haven't been able to put up a Christmas tree this year.  There is come remodeling being done on the house.  So it's been a forced waiting on Christmas.  Advent.  Waiting.

O come, Thou Day-Spring from on high
And cheer us by thy drawing nigh
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death's dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice!  Emmanuel
Shall come to thee O Israel.

Death.   We often don't think of it in relation to Christmas.  Yet, that's what I associate with all of this year.  My mother passed away, my grandfather-in-law passed away, 3 church leaders of mine from the past, two neighbors, and yesterday I lost another friend, making it three people I went to school with who passed away this year.

Everyone who is born will die.  Including Jesus.  In this season we are waiting for our Redemption and our Hope to arrive, because as our Hope, we had to suffer for us.

Right now I'm waiting.  For Hope.  Maybe for the first time this year, Easter will be the time I recognize that hope.  My grandmother passed away on Easter 1995.  Easter has always been wrapped up in death for me.  Maybe I can turn that focus to Christmas.  It's more appropriate with the Slaughter of the Innocents.  

Waiting on hope.   And waiting.  And waiting.  Come, Lord Jesus.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Book Review: Experiencing the Loss of a Family Member

Experiencing the Loss of a Family Member: Discover the Path to Hope and HealingExperiencing the Loss of a Family Member: Discover the Path to Hope and Healing by H. Norman Wright
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I hate that this book applies to me this year.  My parents owned a gravestone business when I was growing up, so I was often around when there were others dealing with their grief, many of my childhood photos took place in cemeteries because we often made a trip Dad needed to make for work into a family trip, and I even met my best friend in elementary school when her family stopped in to buy a monument for her brother.  But as much as I had been around grief, it's another story when it hits home.  This year I lost my mother, my grand-father-in-law, and several family friends.

When my mother died, it felt like my world stopped.  She had been going downhill, but it was still a surprise.  There seemed nothing different about that day than any other, but that day will be engrained in my memory, down to the clothes I was wearing.

Life has to go on for the living, even if we don't want it to.  There are fears and losses.   I'm dealing right now about how I plan my wedding since both of my parents have passed away.  Milestones bring back memories.  Holidays are no different.  Things change even when we don't want them to.

This book, Experiencing the Loss of a Family Member helps work through that grief and emotion.  It reminds you that what you are feeling is okay.  There are questions to help you think about why you are feeling the way you are.  Examples are "I am afraid of ______.  What can I do about it? ______"

This book is difficult to read.  Yet, I'm so glad I did.  There are different chapters, and not all relate to me, but each one had something worthwhile in it.  The chapters are:

The World of Grief
The Loss of a Spouse
The Loss of a Child
Helping Children in Grief
The Death of a Parent
Parent Loss
The Loss of a Sibling
The Loss of a Friend
The Loss of a Pet
The Questions of Life
Helping Others

There are Bible verses in this book that help give hope.  Hope is something that is so difficult to see when the sun has set on someone's life, but this book helped me go on.  It helped me think about my own mortality, and that I want to be important enough in others' lives that they will need a book like this when it's my time to go.

This book encourages you to seek out others.  Be it in a group setting of a grief support group, or calling up a friend.  Life is a journey, and we need one another.  If we didn't then we wouldn't be grieving.

I remember seeing a quote somewhere on line recently that I should be thankful for grief, it means I loved someone so much I miss them.  That's true, but there's more heartbrokenness for me   There is pain, but I get up every morning.  I go on.  And this book helped me start looking to the future instead of the past.

FTC disclaimer:  I received a copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for a fair and honest review.

You can purchase this book here:

Monday, October 20, 2014

Victory in Jesus

I posted this on my Facebook status yesterday:

Went to church at the  Church of the Nazarene this morning. Opening song was Number 434 in the old Nazarene hymnals -- and I didn't look at the hymnal once for that song. When I was a kid going to church there, we sang that song almost every week. Victory in Jesus. That church brought back so many memories. There was cake and ice cream for birthdays after church, and we were able to visit with some people for a while. Yet, I remembered some special people who have passed on from that church. Bob and Dean were so special. I would pick on Dean and she'd always say "I'm telling you!" Gayle is why I started going to church there back in the 1980s. I'm so thankful for her influence in my life. A good day day remembering as well as knowing the future holds good things in store.

I neglected to mention my friend Shelly who went to church there as well.  Shelly passed away this summer. 

It feels like so much has been ripped from me this year.  Nothing feels normal.  Nothing feels even remotely the same.

But going to church where I spent many an hour, hearing 434 being called -- the hymnal fell open to it yesterday, and the strains of "I heard an old, old story" -- a song so familiar I hadn't heard it in years and yet I remembered every word.

I remember the time the we were coming home from a church picnic about 25 years ago, and a kindergartner started singing Victory in Jesus.  Only he sang ONLY the words "Victory in Jesus", on repeat.  I saw his name in the church directory yesterday.

I remembered the time my friend Dean was decorating the Christmas tree and had a strand of Christmas lights that were plugged in at her feet.  She asked, "What hymn am I?"  (Answer "Let the Lower Lights Be Burning".)  Corny, but her laugh was so infectious that we laughed until we almost cried.

I remembered the time after revival we all gathered around the piano and Angie played a number of hymns and we sang until we were hoarse.   

I remembered the time I met the principal of the Christian high school from which I graduated.  My parents and I didn't even know it existed until I greeted her after the service and she told me she was there to give someone information on the school.

And my precious Gayle.  She invited me (no pestered me) to go to church with her, and I got connected in that church.  She passed away a couple years later.   I was an awkward teen, and she reached out, and in so doing honestly changed the course of my life.  Her brother told me on my Facebook page:

What terrific memories and testimony of our sweet Gayle. Thank you Jenn for remaining true to Jesus and honoring my sister by dong so. May the Lord richly bless your marriage!

I feel humbled that he would say such.  My life was made much more full for having known her.

There are others who have passed on from that church, but I've had a rare two days.  Instead of looking at the grief around me and feeling sad, I'm hopeful.  I heard about a mansion he built for me in glory. . . and some sweet day I'll sing up there the song of Victory.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Rare Bird Book Review

Rare Bird: A Memoir of Loss and LoveRare Bird: A Memoir of Loss and Love by Anna Whiston-Donaldson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I don't know why I have been seeking out memoirs of loss.  I have lost my mother, grandfather-in-law, as well as three family friends this year.  Reading about loss should be the last thing I want to do, but when I was offered a chance of an advance reading copy of Rare Bird, I accepted it.

This book is beautifully written, tragic, and yet filled with hope.  The only thing I disliked about the book was the foul language used.  Yes, it would be (insert expletive of your choice here) to lose a son, but with this being a Christian book, I was surprised at the language and that would keep me from recommending this book to some people.   I do appreciate her honesty though, and I am not saying I didn't use language like that after some of the losses I experienced this year, I just didn't feel it was appropriate for a Christian book.

The author takes you into her journey of loss.   Being there for her daughter.  Dealing with the loss of a son.  Finding a new normal.  Grief popping up at unexpected times.  Others not knowing what to say or how to help.  Learning about herself.   Learning about others.  Living with loss, heartache, and sorrow.  I admired the support system she had.  When my mother died, I felt lost as I was her primary care giver for years.  I lost a bit of my identity as I did not have a job outside of that.  The day of the funeral a couple desserts, a meat and cheese tray, and some bread arrived at the house.  Then it seemed like silence.

Death is a part of life, but it shouldn't happen too young.  The author's son was in 7th grade.   It was a freak accident during a flood.  Children shouldn't die.  Yet they do.  Life comes with no guarantees.  Picking up this book is like taking a walk with the author in her painful journey of everything being fine one moment -- her last Facebook photo before the accident was of her children and candlelight because of the power outage.  The next day her life was changed forever.

While I have lost family members before, I have never lost a child, an hope I never do.  But this is a glimpse into the horrible pain that those who have lost a child must feel.   Read this book hug your children tighter, and cherish each day because this moment is all we are guaranteed.   Make the most of it.

FTC disclosure:   I received an advance reading copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.  All opinions are my own.  

Watch the trailer:

You can purchase a copy here:

Monday, September 29, 2014

I'm tired of saying my mother died.

I took RCIA this past year, and had every intention of joining the Church afterwards.  As some of you may remember, Feb 18, I had to leave RCIA class because I got the call asking if my mother was a DNR (do not resuscitate), she passed away before RCIA was finished that evening (I left, of course.)  I didn't feel quite confident I was ready emotionally to join the Church (theology was no problem), so I asked my priest if I could join in a few months.  He said that he would need permission from the Bishop, but that yes, I could.  I specifically asked if I had to go through RCIA again  (I completed the class although I didn't join).   I was told that once through RCIA was all I needed.

Now we have another priest.   I was ready to join the church a couple months ago, but he is telling me I have to go through RCIA again.   I'm trying to convince the powers that be the reason I didn't join was based on circumstances and not theology.

I'm so tired of saying "My mother died" or "I was at RCIA class when my mother passed away"

I see the Eucharist at Mass each week.  I can't receive.  This upsets me, and to think it could be Easter before I could receive just seems so far away.

I've been through so much this year, I've had so many losses, and the one thing I'm wanting is to receive the Eucharist.

I am hopeful that something can be done, but I'm also tired of talking about the loss that consumed my mind around Easter Vigil.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Happy Day, Sad emotions

I just wanted to write.  To someone.  To no one.  Blogging is a way of writing publicly, yet sometimes feels as if I write to no one.

Yesterday was hard.  I had another day of thinking about how there will be only two family members of mine at the wedding.  I have eight more months to ponder this.

I'm hoping there will be a lot of friends there.  We are doing an open church wedding.  Right now, eight months away, it looks like we'll have nearly 50 guests, and I'm sure more will confirm closer to the time.  I want to celebrate with those who love me, those who like me somewhat, and those who are coming just to eat fried chicken.  I want to celebrate life.  I want to laugh, enjoy, and smile with those who have stuck by me the last year.

I want those who are there to know that I'm still grieving the loss of my parents.  I'm not sure I'll ever get over that.  But I want something there to remember my parents.  Instead of a bouquet, I'll carry the Bible my mother carried at her wedding.  Aside from her engagement ring (which is now mine) and her wedding rings, that is the only item I have from my parents' wedding.  I may pin Dad's high school class ring inside my dress.

It seems like since my dad is no longer here, I will have to have someone else walk me down the aisle.  The more I think about it, the more it may be two someones.  Why?   Because it feels like if just one man walks me down the aisle, he is a replacement for my dad.  Having two close friends walk me down the aisle seems to say that no ONE can ever replace my dad.  I know it means different things to different people, but it feels that way to me, and all that matters at my wedding is the symbolism I want to give things.   I haven't decided for certain, but both men I have considered asking to walk me down the aisle will be there.

It's amazing to me how such a happy day can also bring up sad emotions.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

When the Dash is Too Short

I have heard the saying that all that matters in a cemetery is the dash between the birth and death dates.  Then it is explained that how you live is more important than how long you live.  While there is a grain of truth in that, it was obviously said by someone who wasn't grieving.

Yesterday, I stopped at the cemetery for the first time since Mom died.  I needed to find the way the date was written on the stone so I could get it cut.  The stone is hard to miss.  Mom and Dad sold tombstones until 1986 and before they sold the business, they purchased one for themselves.  It's a bit like Dad -- over the top -- at least in my opinion.  Or it was in 1986. Some of today's stones are a bit fancier.

The dash is too short for both of my parents.   Yesterday morning, I was at a wellness checkup with a new health care provider.  I was asked history, and I realized that both with Mom and Dad, I said they were "only" and then the age when they died.  Mom was only 69.  Dad was only 62.  Only.  Only. Only.  I'm so sick of saying only.

I was listening to K-Love yesterday and hearing stories about how people were healed.   Not all people are healed.  I think it's the exception rather than the rule.  I was listening to this person on K-Love talking about how he was diagnosed with cancer and sent home to die -- and he gave a date that will forever be ingrained in my memory.  The same day the doctor said to me that in 48 hours I would have to make the decision to pull the plug on Mom.  I don't understand why some people are healed and then some aren't.  And some, like my mother, seem to be healed for a time, but then are so sick and go downhill until one day we find her gone -- when nothing seemed amiss that morning except she was in a health decline.

I stopped at the cemetery and saw the words at the top of the stone, "He Hideth My Soul".  That was played during her funeral.  Seeing the freshly dug grave, I was in tears.  My mother was in that cold ground.  I know this is when I "should" be saying that she is walking along the streets of gold or with Jesus, but right then, all I could think was Mom was right there.  And I am alone.  I know, I know, I have my boyfriend, and I love him dearly, but he's not my mother.  I love my "Nancy-in-law" (his step mother), but she's not my mother.  No one is my mother except my mother.  She is irreplacable.

From there, I decided to go out to her home place.  It's five miles out of town.  As I was driving to the church my great-grandfather built, I was wishing someone would be there so I could go inside.  I never remembered being in it, and I felt like it would make me feel a lot closer to Mom.  She had so many stories of the church, including one that was published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Answered Prayers: 101 Stories of Hope, Miracles, Faith, Divine Intervention, and the Power of Prayer about how my great-grandmother prayed for her son during WWII in that church.  Family legend says that hair stood up on the back of people's heads as they heard my great-grandmother plead for her son's life.  After a few minutes of desperate pleading, she got up from her knees and said her son was okay.  Mom related this story so well, it was published in detail.  I've heard so many stories growing up that I feel like I was there for some of them.  But when I got to the church, it was locked and empty.  I figured as much for a Monday afternoon.

This is the church at Freeport near Terra Alta WV.  It once was the Nordeck Evangelical United Brethren Church, but is currently the Freeport King James Bible Church.  

I spent some time just walking around the church.  Remembering the picnic we had with my grandmother who passed away in 1995.  Remembering how a few times each summer Dad would announce, "Let's go for a drive" and many times we'd end up in Freeport, Mom telling me stories.  I am not sure if the tears were happy or sad -- or both.  The dash was well lived, but too short.  I never knew my mother's father, her beloved uncle, or her grandparents.  I was at "home" but also with strangers I've never met except for my mother and grandmother.

I decided to stop at the beaver dam.  When I was growing up, I loved skipping rocks across what is now swamp land.  I loved looking at the ripples and seeing how they resounded.

The farm she grew up on is now private property, but I have been granted permission by the current owners to visit.  It was the first time in years I had walked up to the house (which is now abandoned.)  I always loved the milkhouse, it always seemed like a clubhouse type building to me as a child.  Unfortunately it's beginning to fall in.  The barn is still standing, and the house collapsed years ago.  I walked around the foundations thinking of the generations of my family who lived there (my great-great-grandfather built that house!)  I saw a washtub in the rubble of the house and wondered how many hours my grandmother stood by that doing chores and belting out "Amazing Grace"  (She wasn't the most talented singer, but she made up for it in volume!) 

I sighed as I left and looked out at what my mother would have seen every time she looked off the front porch.  It's no wonder she always missed it.  The view, which I had never really noticed before, is beautiful.  Mom used to joke my grandfather said about the song "Lord Build Me A Cabin", he would state, "Why a cabin in the corner of Gloryland?  I want a mansion in the middle."  But I'm hoping they don't have a cabin -- instead I hope they have a two story farmhouse with a view like they did on earth.  It's beautiful.

There were some raindrops starting to fall as I left.  It felt so fitting.  

As I started back to town, I was still crying.  I felt like I reconnected with my past, with people who love me -- some I've never met.  As I rounded the corner to the church, there was a lady on the porch wiping down a stand, and the door was open.  I stopped, introduced myself and got a tour of the church.  Our church.  The Nordeck Church.   Only it's not ours anymore.  But part of us will always be there.   

Friday, April 18, 2014

Easter: The Story of Death (and of Life)

 This is my contribution to the Convergent books Synchroblog.

Easter. Resurrection? Right?  Happy memories of children hunting eggs, jelly beans, and a large family dinner.  Not always.  Did you ever stop to think that Easter is another day?  People are born (like my friend Dan from college was born on Easter Sunday.)  People also die.

April 16, 1995 was a beautiful warm day in West Virginia.  A friend of mine was offered extra credit in a college class to attend church, bringing a church bulletin in with him the next morning.  So finally, he offered to attend church with me.   My mother was working at the local nursing home, and he was also scheduled to work soon after church, so I fixed lunch for us.  As soon as he got to work, he knew something was wrong when Mom wasn't at her station, and he went running to my grandmother's room.   He declared, "I should have brought Jennifer with me."  Because it was shift change, I was called, told I would be picked up by someone I never met and I was, on the day we celebrate the Resurrection, I was going to be present at my grandmother's death.

It was the hardest thing I'd ever done up to that point in my life, which at twenty-two, wasn't that long of a life.  To be so joyful at a worship service that morning and then watch as life waned from my grandmother, her eyes studying me, knowing she wouldn't see me for a very long time.  Easter now has become synonymous to me with a last breath, making arrangements at the funeral home, and the feeling of emptiness that Mary, Mary Magdalene and the disciples felt on Good Friday.  Did you realize that Mary and Mary Magdalene did their first century equivalent of making funeral arrangements?   They were headed to the tomb, not understanding what happened.  They only knew the One whom they loved died a gruesome death reserved for the very dregs of society.  Their Son, their Friend.  Gone.  I'm sure if they even remembered the words of Jesus from John 10:17, they didn't grasp them.  (This is why the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again.)  Or the words from John 16:22 (So you also are now in anguish.  But I will see you again, and your hearts with rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you.)

My mother, every year on Easter and on April 16 mourned the loss of my grandmother.  Mom always said it was like two anniversaries of death and told me "You never get over the loss of your mother."  I thought she was exaggerating because wouldn't you learn to live without someone?

February 18, 2014, my boyfriend dropped me off at RCIA.  I made the decision last year to become Catholic and needed to be at the class.  We had been running errands in a town an hour away, spending much of the afternoon in the DMV.  He was going to check on Mom, then return for the rest of class.  When the phone rang, my first thought was, "Why is he calling?   He knows I'm in class."  I stepped out of the room, and heard, "I had to call 911.  She's unresponsive."  When I returned to the class, I was asked if I needed to go.  I explained I had no car.  Soon a second phone call.   A paramedic questioning me about her medical conditions.  My boyfriend on the phone telling me I needed to get home.  As I gathered my things, and grabbed a friend out of the class to give me a ride 10 miles up the mountain, I heard the lesson.  The Eucharist.   "This do in remembrance of me."  It's how we, as Christians, remember the death of Jesus.

The next time I heard my priest's voice, he was standing by my mother who had passed away.  Because my mother was not Catholic, he could not do Last Rites, but did a prayer of committal of her spirit to God.  The Scriptures were comforting, at least as comforting as they could be at the moment when my mother was gone.  I had fully expected to see her later that evening.  Sobs racked my body, though.  My boyfriend on one side of me, the friend who brought me home from church on the other.

It is two months today since Mom died.  It's hard.  I had to have follow ups to a mammogram because something suspicious was found.  I wanted her there so badly.  (Thankfully all was clear.) I have waited for marriage until I found the right man.  Mom met him, but she said last summer that she had two last things she was living for, one was to publish a book she wrote, and the second was to see me married.  My heart aches at the thought of a wedding now that neither of my parents are alive.

When my dad passed away, I had recently taken a trip to Israel with a friend who was Episcopalian and her Jewish boyfriend.  He stepped up and did the best he could of sitting Shiva with me -- every evening he phoned me.  It was comforting to know that someone acknowledged my grief beyond the time my dad's body was placed in the ground.

I learned more about Jewish mourning rituals at that time.  There's a tradition called avelut where, if your parent has died, you should avoid celebrations, parties, and the like for a year.  My boyfriend's step-mother called recently wanting us to visit on Easter, or for them to visit.  We live five hours away and rarely see each other.  I don't feel ready for a celebration.  I'm not entering the Catholic Church at Easter as I planned but giving myself more time. (I will elaborate on this in an upcoming blog post).   My heart is still shattered.  Although Christians don't follow Jewish mourning rituals, I feel justified in knowing the celebration I looked forward to may not be appropriate for me just yet.

Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life, but right now, I'm still living in Good Friday.  I'm feeling what the disciples felt after losing Him.   I'm sure someday I'll have more of an understanding of Resurrection, Eternal Life, and Heaven, but right now, I'm feeling grief.  Because of my Grandmother, even Easter Sunday has grief woven through it, but maybe, just maybe that's how it should be.  What if we didn't just celebrate the Resurrection on Easter, but remember how death hurts, leaves an ache that won't go away -- unless we see the Person again.

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Dartboard of Grief and Suffering

I read this concept online at one point in time.  I don't remember where it's from.  It's so accurate I thought it was worth making a post about it.  If anyone remembers the source, please let me know.

The concept is that the person suffering is the center.  They can complain to anyone outside their circle of the bullseye.  The next circle are those closest to that person.  They can complain to everyone but the person in the center circle.  It gets larger as the social network of people increase.  For instance, someone in their church should not complain to an immediate family member that the suffering of the person in the center is so much they can't stand it.  That person can complain to those outside their circle, but no one closer to the suffering.

photo courtesy of

I used this idea when my mother was in the hospital in August.  I was terrified.  I felt justified in anyone I let know how scared I was, etc.  I never breathed a word to my mother how terrified I was because of her health.  I was positive and upbeat around her.  It sounds like common sense, but it is not.   Because other people complained to her about her suffering and how it bothered them, she thought I didn't care.  

The night my mother died, there were various "circles" of the bullseye in our living room.  The paramedics comforted me through tears.  I saw their own pain of losing a friend and co-worker.  I have no doubt they cried once they left the house, but were strong for me.

When I arrived home (I was at church), a friend drove me home.  He never met my mother, and he was a rock for everyone.  My boyfriend wanted to protect me from what happened.  There were others there to comfort my boyfriend, but I was in a circle closer to my mother than my boyfriend, although he was in a ring just outside me.  In the last few months my mother became close with my boyfriend.

I am not saying you need to treat the suffering and grieving with kid gloves, but please do remember the circles.  Be strong for those in the inner circles.  Be someone they can turn to instead of you turning to them in your pain and grief.

Everyone handles grief and suffering differently.  Just because someone appears stoic and like it doesn't bother them, that doesn't mean they aren't silently shedding tears when no one is around.  It doesn't mean there isn't pure panic at times in the middle of the night.  Just because they appear to be doing okay, don't assume that is really the case.

Ask what you can do.  Be willing to help.  Maybe even offer to do things.  Someone called the day after my mother died and offered to clean our house.  I didn't get the message until later, but many times offering something you can do is more appreciated than you can imagine. 

Friday, February 28, 2014

Seven things I've learned about Grief (thus far)

1.   On February 18, 2014, my life as I knew it ended.  No, I won't get over it.  Life will never go back to "normal".  I'm finding a new normal and trying to live in that.

2.  The last hours of my mother's life play over and over again in my mind.  She took a nap.  But what ifs run though my head.  I wish I knew details, and the few details I do know, I wish I didn't.

3.  Meat and Cheese trays.   Enough said.

4.  Grief is beginning to look like a sandwich.  (See #3.)

5.  Writing thank yous feels like an excruciating chore. (See #3)  I'm asking my boyfriend to do as many of those as possible.  

6.  Everyone grieves differently.  Don't judge.

Image courtesy of

7.  Weird emotions at weird times.  The poor home health lady who called to check up on Mom and I found it so funny and started laughing.  The absolute terror I felt one night as I got up to go to the bathroom.


8.  The people you expected to be there for you might not be, and the people who are there for you mean more than you can ever express.

You can find more 7 Quick Takes Friday at

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Goodbye, Mom

I'll be back to blogging soon, but my mother passed away on Tuesday.  While she had been very ill for some time, it was sudden in the fact it wasn't expected to happen that day.  My boyfriend talked to her an hour before she passed.

Obviously I have things more important to tend to at the moment than blogging.