Be still and know that I am God.
Psalm 46:10

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

99 years young

My grandma died on Sunday at the sweet, tender age of 99 years old - just shy of her 100th birthday. We had plans to visit her at the end of February as we usually did, to share that milestone with her. We were looking forward to a vacation from our cold winter weather and visiting with family. Instead, our plans have changed to planning a spring time memorial service at Wisconsin Memorial Park, where she will be laid to rest next to my grandpa.

I offered to write my Grandma's obituary.  It will be my first one.  I hope I do her proud.  I don't want to write the "usual" type, where it lists...survived by...preceded in death by..,etc.  Yes, all of those things are important and will be written, but I want people to know my Grandma and what her life meant.

Her LIFE...all 99 years, 10 months and 24 days of it!

The best obituary, I ever read, was written by my friend, Cheryl, and it was for my mom.  Please click here to read it.  I hope I can express to others my grandma's life in the same way; however, her personality being more private and introverted may make it more difficult to write.

The last time I saw my grandma she was lively, communicative, funny and looked happy. One time, she shared her private feelings with me about my childhood that profoundly affected me.  I'd say so much so that it will be the title of my memoir, if I ever write it...Tossed Aside Like a Rag Doll and I will dedicate it to her. We really connected that day in a special way.

Yes, she was struggling physically, but she was able to sit outside on her porch with her family.  I asked her if I could paint her fingernails a pretty pink color that I picked out just for her.  I loved seeing the smile on her face when she nodded yes.

We celebrated her birthday with her favorite foods and dessert.  We showered her with presents and flowers.  She smiled and laughed often. The sun was shining, and the day was beautiful.  It was the best of times. That is how I will remember her.

My grandma and I shared our love for writing and reading.  When they moved to Arkansas when I was 10-years old, our relationship changed to a pen pal one.  We got to know each other in a different, special kind of way through all of those letters, back and forth.  I saved many of them,  and I will read them again soon.  We continued this until a few years ago when she couldn't write any longer. Although I continued writing to her, I knew she was filled with great sadness that she couldn't write back.

I will spend the next few weeks "interviewing" my family members about my grandma's life.  I'm not really after the facts per se, but rather how she touched their lives. What they learned from her...what they loved about her... what was her childhood like...what did she love about life?  Some of it might make it into the obituary; some of might not.

I'd say it pretty much comes down to: What's her legacy?  Hmm...something I think matters to each one of us.  Something I hope to capture in her obituary.

That song by Nicole Nordeman called, Legacy, comes to my mind as I write this.  She sings, "I want to leave a legacy.  How will they remember me? Did I choose to love? Did I point to you enough to make a mark on things?"

When I write my grandma's obituary, I will write from a place of how she always made me feel, and that was loved and accepted all of the time.  She was one of the kindest people I have ever met.  I will remember school shoe shopping with her when I was a kid.  I will remember the drive down to Arkansas, with all 5 of us, plus the dog smashed into a baby blue colored Pinto, rusted floor and all.  She would bake us the best Christmas cookies and mail them each year.  Her deep faith in God was genuine, private and understood.  I never doubted her when she said she was praying for me.

I'm happy today that my grandma has made it safely home.  She didn't reach the "milestone" that we had all hoped for, but in the big scheme of things, I don't think it really matters.  She lived a good, long life that I am glad I got to be apart of.  She will be deeply missed and fondly remembered.

Grandma, Mom, Tracy and I ~ 1973

Grandma on her 99th birthday



Betty H. Edwards, Feb. 25, 1915 - January 18, 2015, born in Chicago, IL.
Birth name:  Sara Elizabeth (Betty) Hines

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Bittersweet

Tonight, I am feeling something called bittersweet.  My friend, Laura, died today.  Her suffering ended, but ours began.  That is how life goes.  She leaves behind 3 children who really needed their mom.  She was a mother, daughter, sister and friend who will be deeply missed.

Laura, simply, made the world brighter.  I feel as though a 'spark' has gone out in the world.  If you knew her, you'd understand.  She had a heart for God and a zest for life.

Her life ended way too soon.

Life is interesting, isn't is?  I am waiting for the same "news" about my grandma.  She will turn 100 years old on February 25th, but I don't know if she will "make it."  We are all excited for her to make that milestone, but I don't think it matters much to her. We visit her every year on her birthday, but our travel plans to see her in San Diego are on hold, for now.

She has lived a good, long life...99 years!  Can you even imagine?  Because of that, it makes it easier to understand and accept it, doesn't it?  But for someone like Laura,  I am left feeling frustrated because the answer  to the "why" of things is not for me to know.

There comes a time when questions cease and faith begins.  I learned this a long time ago from my dear mentor and friend who had suffered loss herself.

The past few days have left me feeling on edge and sleepless, as I've waited for the news about these people that I love.  That dreaded call.  I remember it well when my mom was dying.  Yet, when I think of my dear friend who is now  in heaven - completely known - I can't help feeling the sweetness.  She met Jesus today.  Her suffering and pain ended instantaneously, as she took hold of His hand.

Our life is but a blink.  This loss has sure put things into perspective for me as I am the same age as hers. Laura has taught me to savor each and every moment.

Tomorrow is not guaranteed to anybody.

I feel the bitterness, as I think of her life taken too soon.  I will feel the bitterness at her funeral because there is no sense to be made of this.  I will shed a whole bunch of tears for days when I think of her kids.  I will hug her mom tight because I understand what it feels like to lose a child.

As you go to sleep tonight, would you please pray for this family?  And I hope you feel the sweet, as I do, when you realize the whole purpose of life.  I know Laura knows full well, "Well done, good a faithful servant. " I know God is good, and He is right there beside them.  I know this for sure.

He said, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will return there. The LORD gives, and the LORD takes away. May the name of the LORD be blessed!" Job 1:21


Saturday, January 10, 2015

Heartbroken

I found out a few days ago that my friend, Laura, is dying of brain cancer and has at-home hospice.  This is after an 18-month battle fighting cancer in her shoulder with chemotherapy and surgery.  This is on top of being a single, divorced mom who lost her job.  She went to the doctor for her "check-up," and they found it had spread to her brain.  Her diagnosis came in early December, but I didn't receive the news until now.

She was given 6 weeks to live.

We became friends a few years ago where we met at our kids' school.  We have kids in the same grades.  We found we had a lot in common.   We immediately "clicked,"  right from the start.  I love her 'realness' and 'spark.'  I love her love for God and her children.  We are the kind of friends (I like to call us kindred spirits) that get together for coffee/lunch dates from time to time.  You know the kind, where you can just "pick up right where you left off" kind.  I am reminded of how much I appreciate the gift of friendship.

More so, now.

Laura and I would talk about our kids, school, health, life, but mostly we talked about our faith.  We talked about how to trust God and believe in His promises during the hard times of life.  We shared how hard that is sometimes to do.  I was in awe of her deep, profound faith when I knew she was struggling so much.  I would leave our time together always feeling encouraged.  She has that gift.

The last time I saw her was in October.  She was cancer-free, feeling stronger and looked great.  She had plans of becoming a Milwaukee Police Officer.  I strongly encouraged her to go for it.  She would have been a really good cop.  I kind of have that sense after being around cops my whole life. :)

Just this past Monday, I thought of contacting her to get together again.  But, life got in the way, as it always seems to do.  Then, I received the devastating news.  I grieve the time lost.  I called a mutual friend to get more information.  I wanted to visit, call, text - DO something, anything!   I found out that the last report of her current condition was not good.  I contacted her mom to see if I could visit.  I was told it was not a good time for visitors.  I was told this yesterday, too.  Understandably so.  I watched my mom go through the same thing seven years ago.

I am too late. 

I believe in my heart of hearts that I am not going to get a chance to say good-bye to my dear friend on this side of heaven.  Not in the way I would've wanted to or chosen, but I trust that it is the way it has to be.  Instead, I will pick out my very favorite stationery and pen, sit down at my table, light a candle for her and write my friend a handwritten letter.  I will write until I cannot write any longer.  I will let the tears fall. I will mail it on Monday, and I hope she gets it in time. I will pray for her family and her kids. I will pray for her.  I won't say good-bye to her because I know I will see her again.  It sure will be good to see her in her new body, walking hand-in-hand with Jesus.

I am left feeling heartbroken about all of it down to every last tear shed; however, I believe there is a lesson to be learned from everything in life.  I believe the lesson here is to treasure every momentI've been reminded to slow down and step out of the craziness of life and focus on what really matters.  It's not about the job, money, success, prestige, biggest house, expensive car...I could go on and on.  We are all guilty of it ~letting time slip on by and wasting it on what won't even matter at the end of our lives. That popular country song by Tim McGraw, "Live Like You Were Dying" keeps popping into my head.  It sure puts things into perspective.

Finally, read the good book...took a good, hard look at what I'd do if I could do it all again...loved deeper...spoke sweeter...gave forgiveness I've been denying...tomorrow is a gift...what will you do with it? What did I do with it?

The lesson is to appreciate the time we are given.  It is about honoring and praising God for the gift of life each and every day.  It is about spending time with our loved ones. It is about making time for people, not things or endeavors.  It's about doing it now.


Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Dear Sarah...

Today I was the substitute teacher in Luke's 6th-grade class. His teacher was at home with his family, two young boys, and his wife, trying to cope with the loss of their daughter who died in the 2nd trimester of pregnancy.  This is after they lost their baby boy in similar circumstances at the beginning of last summer.

The sad, devastating news have many of us who know them feeling at a loss. I talked with some of the other teachers today, and we just stood there shaking our heads in astonishment and disbelief.

I planned to stay speechless, but I felt that 'nudge' to share my story with one teacher.  I told her that I understood what they were going through because we went through the same thing. I told her Emily's Story, and then how I miscarried twins later that year. Two more miscarriages within that same year almost broke me.

I know, I will be reaching out to Sarah and her family, once again, all in due time. In the meantime, I find myself feeling frustrated with the struggle of,  What am I even going to say to her, even after all I've been through? And then my mind shifts to, How did I make it through that? How do I still manage the loss?

I realize that is what I will say to her. I will tell her about all of it, if she'll listen.

I will tell her about the support group, Mission TLC, which I attended for months at Elmbrook Church to help me heal.  I will talk about the friendships I would never have made otherwise.  I will give her the list of books, bible studies and songs that helped me the most.  I will share with her how keeping a journal was my solace. I will tell her how we memorialize Emily with a rose garden, crocheted blanket, balloons and a garden stone as part of the grieving process.  I will share with her that the roller coaster of emotions that come with the staggering stages of grief will eventually come to an end.

Acceptance.

I'd say that's a pretty good place to be.  She will get there, too.

I will share with Sarah my most precious prayers that I prayed in order to keep on breathing: "I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living." ~Psalm 27:13 and "Be still and know that I am God." ~ Psalm 46:10. Somehow, I needed to get that last one stenciled on my bedroom wall so I wouldn't forget it :)

Most importantly, I think what she needs to hear about is my walk of faith....God's love and faithfulness to me.  That through it all, hope was never out of my reach.  I believed that He was good no matter what my circumstances.  I will tell her how my faith was challenged like never before. And then, I will tell her how long I was angry at God and how healing it was for me to let Him know.

I will tell her that she can overcome this.

But for tonight, as she lays her head on her tear-stained pillow, and with a heavy heart, I would like her and her family to know:  

Dear Sarah~
May you feel the Lord's presence and comfort tonight like never before. You are not alone, not ever.  Let the love of God and your loved ones carry you through this difficult time because I can tell you that it will.  You are loved beyond measure by our everlasting Father.  Each day will get easier, but the hurt will always remain. He will teach you how to live with it.  I can promise you that you will smile again. God bless you, your husband and precious children, both here and in heaven.
~Lori