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Friday, November 22, 2013

A Better Place...

"The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see. The act of faith is what distinguished our ancestors, set them above the crowd." Hebrews 11:1,2 The Message Bible

She's in a better place…

At 11:44am on November 18th... she left us.
She stepped from this world… this life… into the one that she has been waiting forever to see.

There are things to do… things to be done.
While she is dancing with Jesus, we are planning out the how and the where for us to say goodbye… to let her go.
I have a list sitting on my table.
It is full of my part… of my responsibility in the part I have to play.
But… and this is a huge but… I am sitting here. Unable to move. Unable to "plan".
I just needed a moment.
I needed to feel.

No one wants to talk about grief.
No one wants to read about it.
At least I don't. I didn't. Never.
It sucks.
Let's just be honest.
Who wants to partner with that kind of pain the fears it calls to
For me until yesterday morning never. I never wanted to touch it. Or feel it. None of it.
I didn't have a choice. Do we ever?

For the last week I drove back and forth… slept on a bed that is not my own and tried to prepare myself… my heart... for what I knew the end of this season would be.
When I walked through the door I knew that I wasn't going to be greeted by her smile… or the look of recognition that would take a minute to sink in… for her to recognize who I was.
Instead I have had to repeatedly turn the corner of her bedroom and find her there… lying there…. slipping farther away… not really able to talk… not able to reach out to us with her signature hugs and kisses… getting closer to the moment that we knew was coming but not one you can ever properly prepare your heart for.

We knew… we knew it was coming…
And as my family increasingly piled into the house and set up camp to do what needed to be done, I was surrounded by sights… sounds… emotions… and feelings that I could have never anticipated.
As we rolled her from side to side so she wouldn't hurt as much… as we all pitched in to bathe her… change her sheets to clean ones… touch her… feel her… surround her…. love on her… I have been so unsure.

How is this going to go down?
How are we going to know how to not do this?
How are we going to go back to our normal everyday after dropping everything and just being fully and completely in this moment? One we have wanted to escape from but never leave all at the same time?
How are we going to function as a family without the one person who has so hugely filled all of our lives?

At 11:44am on November 18th we got a glimpse...

As we all surrounded her as she slowly breathed in her last breaths with us…. breathing in the same air together…
As we watched as my brother kept his fingers on her pulse… to let us know that finally… she was gone.
As we all with tears running down our faces… not worrying about if we were doing this right…we said goodbye…
When my turn came to say what I knew I should… I couldn't fully embrace it… I couldn't embrace her anymore… she wasn't there.
The moment my fingers touched her shoulders, to lean in and hug her goodbye… I couldn't do it.
My spirit instantly felt it… like a shock to my system I felt it… she wasn't there anymore.
She was gone.

She is in a better place.

I can't explain fully I think, how I was feeling in that moment… but I remember a sick feeling rolling over me. An honest moment of emptiness…. I felt robbed.
A hole the size of which I have never felt before opened up…. it was like she just got up and left this place… this place in my life that I know can never be filled by anyone or anything else.
A crater of emptiness.

I know God knows.
I know that eventually…. eventually…. the hole will seem not so large.
I know that He is faithful to every single promise that He has ever spoken over me… my family… and over her.
I know that even though this moment feels so alien… so unfamiliar and foreign… me… my family… our hearts… I know that they will move on… go forward again from this place that we have sputtered to a stop.
I know that we will all be okay…
She grew us up to be.
But right now…. it pains… it aches… it's hard.
My heart is cracked and feeling lost.
I don't like not knowing how to navigate… how not to control my emotion.
I am working at it really hard… and losing miserably.

My family…her family… our amazing and loving family… she would have been so proud of us.
All that she taught us… all that she constantly pounded into our hearts and our heads… about faithfulness… how to trust God when things are uncertain… how to cling to the One who we know is the only One who can offer us true hope for what we don't understand… how to love with your whole heart… how to be there for each other… love each other when it's hard and tough…it all played out as we came together to care for and love on this earth the person that holds such a huge part of all of our hearts.
Her strength and her tanacity… it lives on. It resides right smack in the middle of me. In the middle of all of us.

I can't sit here and not insert any kind of hope any kind of joy.
My sweet Gram embodied it.

She IS in a better place….
No more sickness.
No more pain.
No more sorrow.
No more hurt.
No more loss.

The moment my cousin pulled me into his arms to release what I was holding in… I saw it….
Her… dancing… doing a jig like she used to… smiling big like I remember…. joyful… FREE….
How can I not rejoice over that?
How can I sit here and just focus on what I don't have in having her here and not focus on the what I know is now her very real reality.
On our unsure ride back home my brother asked…
"What is she doing right now?…"
"What does she see?…"
We don't know for sure… but we do know where she is. We are confident that although she is not here with us… she is there.
Dancing again… laughing again… getting reacquainted with those that she loved who have gone before her.
My Gram always loved parties… I imagine that she is having the biggest party right now ever.
It brings a smile to my face… and a little bit of joy leaking back in.

Although the pain of it hurts deep and the loss feels larger than anything I can try and compare it to…
I have hope.
Somewhere deep I can feel the release…

She is in a better place.

I imagine her dancing with joy leaping through grass greener than she has ever seen.
I imagine her smelling and admiring the flowers that only a dedicated gardener can appreciate.
I imagine her touching the water as it flows from the springs of the kingdom.
I imagine her smiling. her eyes sparkling. her laughter bubbling over and loud.
I imagine her surrounded by her mom, her dad, her brothers and sisters my Grandpa.
Finally reunited with the man that she loved. The man that was taken from her at such a young age.

I imagine her happy.
I imagine her whole.

I know that my imaginings are just that…
Deep down though… I know that there is some truth to it all.
And that… that is what I am holding on to in this moment of loss… when I feel bereft and unsure…

I imagine.

She is in a better place… and this truth that I can stand on surer than the keys that I am typing on at this very moment is this…
I WILL see her again.

That in and of itself brings me joy.

Until another tomorrow…


"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time." 1 Peter 1:3-5 NAS

Monday, November 11, 2013


Today seems fitting.
Today seems right.
I have often said it but I have not said it enough. And I have not said it here. Yet.
But today is as good a time as any.
In fact, considering what today represents, our current circumstances, our current state today is perfect.

Dear Uncle,

Thank you.
I wish you knew how much weight is in those two words for me.
I want to convey it as best that I can. Even still I know it won't be enough.
As long as I can remember, you have always been there. Always.
I don't have one important growing up memory of my childhood without you in it.
I remember all of us kids running to the door to beat each other to the driveway to see who could get there first. To be the first one you grabbed a hold of. You must have been tired. You always worked so hard. But still you would hug us all and let us hound you all the way back into the house.
I used to sneak into the garage where your office was. 
I just wanted to make sure you were there.
So much of my life was shaky so much of it was tough. I intrinsically knew that if you were there everything would be okay.
You always made me feel safe. You always made me feel loved.
And when I was struggling to trust, wounded and burdened down by a horrible situation, I will never forget the look on your face as my mom shared with you what I was battling through... That look that spoke volumes to me You were afraid that I wasn't going to be able to trust you anymore. That look sealed it for me. I knew that you above anyone else in my life would always be worthy of my trust. You didn't fail me then, and you have not failed me since. You may not remember but I do.
You have been there always. Through so many tough circumstances in our lives. 
When my mom struggled to put food on our table, we ate at yours.
When we didn't have any money for Christmas gifts, you made sure we had everything on our list.
When we needed somewhere to go, so we didn't have to always be in daycare, you and Aunt made sure we had a safe place to be.
I watched you constantly.
How you processed life, how you served your God, how you served your family, how you loved us all so unconditionally, so fully.
We don't share the same blood, yet there has never been a day when I haven't felt like we are connected by something more.
You helped raise my brother and I. 
You showed us what honor looks like. Integrity. Strength.
True strength.
When it felt like the world had turned it's back on us you brought us in.
You knew how to take ordinary moments and fill them with more.
Simple trips to the dump for your construction business were full of laughter, song and fun.
Trips to Foster Freeze for chocolate dipped vanilla cones.
Building houses and go carts in the back yard.
Summer camping adventures cross country.
Every Holiday, joy just seemed to emanate off of you.
In a house full of strong women, you silently led us all.
Faithfully loving my Auntie for the past 42 years of marriage.
Showing her honor…. Loving her and us patiently.
I don't think you understand the impact you have had.
I think an epiphany for me today is this 
I chose a man to marry just like you.
Your character and everything you have always stood for.
He stands. Just like you.
Strong. Unwavering. Displaying unconditional love just like you have shown all of us my whole life.
He does it too.
Uncle, I have made a lot of mistakes. Some little and some huge. 
Through every one you have extended grace to me.
I have not always done well telling you how much you mean to me, how important you have been in my life. The enormous part you have played in making me the woman, the wife, the mom I am today.
You have had a part in it. All of it.
I remember every story. Every song. Every moment that you shared with us as kids.
I can only count on one had the times I have seen you angry.
I can count so many more times the moments that you have loved on us, shared with us, been patient with us, blessed us.
You never spoke about the hard times. The times that you struggled hard.
I remember your salvation story. The one that would leave tears gleaming in your eyes. You would tell us that you were a changed man. The changed man was the only one I ever knew.
I never knew the man that fought his demons until we talked as adults.
I never knew the man that saw atrocity in a land that didn't belong to you.
I never knew the man that ran away from home at 17 and joined the military to fight in a war that I'm not sure you even understood. No one did.
You came home broken and rejected by the very people you fought to keep free.
But we never saw that side of you.
I remember you quiet I remember you thoughtful. I remember you working hard.
I know that the man that quietly has led our family for so long has so much more to give.
I don't remember a day that you have ever complained. Knowing our big crazy family, you have plenty that you could say. 
But you didn't. And you don't.
I can't fault the moments that you need to retreat. I have often envied your ability to just slip away and take a moment to re-group without making anyone feel like you are abandoning them.
In these last few months I have watched you step to the forefront. To offer your home, your freedom, your life to again serve this family with your love, support, and faithfulness.
As we all wait and watch as Grams life slowly slips from us you have been in the background supporting.
The other day as  I watched, you brought a blanket and covered her feet as she lay asleep on the couch, my heart filled and tears blurred my eyes.
In that moment I saw Jesus. And the more I reflect on you the more I see You have always shown us Jesus. In action, in deed in love.
This family, this country, this woman is so blessed to know you. To have you in our lives, to have had your service and your devotion.
Some might belittle those things.
I never will.
Thank you.
For your service not just to this country, although that in and of itself is large enough to be thankful for… today and every day after...
But most of all… Thank you for your service to our family. To all of us around you that you could easily care less about. If you chose to.
But you don't.
And we all know it. 
We feel it the moment you wrap us up in your hugs when we walk through your front door.
Thank you.
Today on a day to honor so many who have gone before us to secure our freedom, to fight for the families that depend on them I am remembering you and all the ways that you have honored us with your life.
It is no surprise to me that when you could have run so many other places as a young 17 year old boy that you ran straight into battle. You may not have understood it then, but knowing the man that I know now and the man of honor that you have always been in my life, I would expect nothing else.
For all the sacrifices you have made and continue to make. For our family, your friends, your church, your community, other veterans that you have walked your road with... 
Again...I just want to say... Thank you.
You are loved and appreciated more than you know.
More than you will ever know.
I have someone at home that reminds me of the power of your integrity. The power of the honor that you carry.
Thank you for setting the example that I needed set.

I will always remember you on this day, the day that we honor so many for their service and faithfulness to our country.
But for me Uncle in light of who you are I am not just thankful for that but so much more.
Because you are so much more.

You will always hold a place in my heart only reserved for you. In that place I will always be the little girl that you chose to take into your heart and love. I will always be your first little one.
I hope that you know all that you have poured into me.
For me… You define honor.

Te quiero mucho tio.
I love you.


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Those Moments...

                           (This picture is of my daughter a few summers ago. Beauty personified.
                                                     I don't know why, but this picture always causes me to sigh… to reflect… 
                                                   and to remember that in my moments of pause and thoughtfulness, 
                                                                         In my moments of need...God is there.)

There are those moments....
The ones that can either define... or stay neglected. 
The kind that beg for you to notice them but won't shout for your attention. 
You need to see them to capture them. You have to feel them to be able to be touched by what they can leave. A picture captured at just the right moment… at just the right time. The moments that stay with you and cause  you to reflect… bringing you back to the dream they happened in.

As I have sat these long weeks... Waiting... Anticipating the bad. 
As I have held the hand of the one that I fear losing too fast... She has poured joy.
She hasn't turned.  She has remained as faithful as she ever was.
She has danced.
She sings.
She has laughed... 
And in those moments I have thought her lost I have found her melancholy. I have found her thoughtful. 
She still worries a little. She wants us all to be okay. But she hasn't changed.
Her foundations are still the same. 
Her faith. Her God. Her family. 
It is all there. 

It has seemed dark for so long. Her...  her essence... the being of all who she is and will ever be to me. In the moments of her profound weakness they have begun to shine brighter than I remember. They speak loudly to anyone who waits to listen. Who chooses to see. 

This is where I have been standing the last few weeks... In the shadow of all that she has ever been. Iconic. Legendary. Loyal. Faithful. Loving. Strong. I am a mere shadow of all that I hope to accomplish someday... All that I can ever hope to be. 
She... She humbles me. Her life... Her story... Her strength... Her weaknesses... Her passion.... Her heart. 

I don't want to miss it. Any of it. I want to hold still  and drink it in. 
Sometimes... Sometimes it's too much. I can't sit still and the fear crowds in and the reality tries to settle right under my skin. Irritating me and making me itch. 
It's uncomfortable. It's unruly... This life. 
I crave predictability... Safety... Assurance. 
Then I hear it. Distant... Increasingly growing in volume as I heed to it... Bow to it... 

He is in control

I don't always live it like I should. Act on it like I want to. 
But I KNOW it. 
I know it's true. The truth. 
In the moments that I am anticipating the raw... The real... The moments when life throws us the curve balls that we were not looking for nor that we want.
We always want it thrown straight. Even. Easy. Life doesn't and won't always cooperate. He allows us to be stuck sometimes... Dirty.... Holed up... Just so we can understand.... 

He is in control. 

Like the sun peeking through the clouds as it descends after a long day... 
It holds promise. In the pink and hue of twilight He speaks. 

"As for God, His way is perfect: The Lord ’s word is flawless; He shields all who take refuge in Him. For who is God besides the Lord ? And who is the Rock except our God? It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; He causes me to stand on the heights. He trains my hands for battle; my arms can bend a bow of bronze. You make Your saving help my shield, and Your right hand sustains me; Your help has made me great. You provide a broad path for my feet, so that my ankles do not give way. (Psalm 18:30-36 NIV)

When life gets dirty... And ugly... And just plain hard... I will remember...

Just like she has lived it. Every day then... And every day since. Captured by the memories I will carry around forever. Packed away in the furthest reaches of my heart... 

I don't ever want to forget it...
He... not I. 
I am not alone... We... are not alone. In any of it. 
It's the biggest and best lesson she ever taught me... 


“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 NIV)

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

How To Say Goodbye...

I wish I knew.

Every time I had a question that I couldn't answer….

Every time no one else understood where I was coming from….
She knew.

When I was afraid, instead of judging my fear, she saw straight through it.
She taught me how to fight it.
I am still learning.

When I was frustrated and couldn't get it right. Which was often…
She taught me to never give up. To try again.
And again.
And again.

When I couldn't make sense of the world not of my choosing she taught me to cling to the only One who can make sense out of chaos.

But here I am.
And I want to ask her so badly

What do I do now Grandma?
How do I deal with this sort of heart pain?
This deep ache that has me in a vise that makes it hard for me to breath…
How do I watch you fade away and not be angry?
How do I let go of you in your deepest hour of need and not rail at the how?
How do I stop myself from asking why?
How do I stop the hurting?
How do I stop the fear?
How do I keep trusting Grandma? How have you always done it…. your whole life?

You never told me how I was supposed to let you go.
If even for a time… 
You never prepared me for anything this hard.
You taught me so much Gram. So much.
But you didn't teach me this.

And I am at a loss.

I want to be strong. Just like you taught me to be.
I want to be faithful. Exactly how you showed me.
I want to be soft. Like your heart.
I want to make you proud at this moment… one of the hardest moments of my life.
I want to find the joy... because you always found it. Always.

I am bereft Grandma.
You showed me how to be strong when life got hard.
You showed me how to raise a family and work hard for what I wanted.
You taught me that loving God was more important than anything else in this world.

But you forgot this oh woman of my heart.

You didn't prepare me for the day that I would have to let you go.
To see you not being strong.
To see you weak.
For life here without you in it.

I am lost in how to do this...

If only I could ask you…. so that I don't stay lost.

Even if it's not forever… If only you could tell me how….

How to say goodbye. For now.


"In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath, 18 so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us. 19 This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil," Hebrews 17-19