Tag Archives: grief

The Storyteller…

Time Capsule … 2011?

Every family has a storyteller.

In my husband’s family.. that person was Grandpa Bennett.

Stories being told of Uncle Loren and Uncle Erwin… two souls that I never met… But the memories would bring out a fond chuckle from Grandpa..

… and a smile from my husband.

Some of my favorite stories were ones he told of my sweet mother-in-law.

How .. as a child… she had prayed for each chicken before he “harvested” them. He would shake his head at the memory.. and joke that they never raised chickens after that.

But more than the stories he told … I loved to see the happiness in his expression.

The joy that shone from his face…

… it took your breath away.

Grandpa

Grandpa Bennett turned 98 this last March.

98 years on this earth.

Can you imagine the changes he witnessed in this world from 1922 .. until 2020? It is no wonder he had so many stories to tell.

World Wars…

Great Depressions…

Computers..

Not all of it was good… it couldn’t have been..

… yet every story I remember him telling? He would tell with a happy chuckle.

…and every person he talked to? He greeted with a smile.

This week, Grandpa Bennett lost the fight with his weak heart… and he went to be with His Lord.

He will be missed by so many.

…by so many…

The next time our family can gather..?

He won’t be sitting at the kitchen table.. He won’t greet everyone by name as we arrive..

… but he will be there.

He will be there in our hearts. Alive in the stories he told us of his childhood… and beyond…

And he will be there alive in his children and all of his grandchildren.

Because the love that Grandpa gave freely grows in his loved ones still.

And when we listen carefully?

We can still hear that joyful laugh!

Thank you Grandpa Bennett for sharing your stories with us…

… and your joy ….

.. and thank you for raising such an amazing daughter.. so that I could have an amazing second mom.

May we all follow in your footsteps…

Empty chairs…

This theatre season, my cast worked through enormous obstacles to perform Les Miserables.

And then .. on opening night?

Covid-19 starting shutting down all assembling of groups.

So 10 weeks of hard work.. and the kids were only allowed to perform for their families. The cast was heartbroken… but they wiped their tears… and performed an awe-inspiring opening night.

I could NOT have been more proud.

For me?

This experience is a little surreal…

Surreal in the sense that everything was so different from where we were 2 weeks ago. 2 weeks ago, I was reminding the kids to hang up their costumes and to clean up their own messes.. and to turn in tee shirt money.

And today… I am JUST praying that each of my cast members stays safe and healthy..

And alive…

But it is also surreal for me in the sense… that ALL of my life I have been studying Plagues and epidemics .. and pandemics. The Black Death.. the Spanish flu (that started in The US)… siege sicknesses, the viruses that wiped out the Natives, etc..

Not so much for the illnesses or the deaths… because death and suffering saddens me…

…but how those illnesses.. and the fear… and the chaos affected the people. And how those effects changed the course of history.

How poor people could suddenly own land…

…How our children still sing “Ring around the rosies”.. to ward off evil spirits…

And here we are… smack in the middle of what WILL BECOME history. Someday, kids will be studying about the Covid-19 pandemic of 2019.. and wonder how the “population coped with the terror” and the isolation..

I wonder if the history books will tell how we had a shortage of toilet paper… and no shortage of the conspiracy theories?

Or will the future history books say that the “population” learned from the history books of the past? Will the history books state how we all chose to obey isolation and quarantined ourselves at home?

Will the history books say how we banded together to give each other hope for a future?

Because we WILL have a future.

Even the worst plagues… the survivors dusted off their hats.. picked up the pieces of their lives.. and made a future for themselves.

And little by little?

We learned from them. From the survivors. We learned to wash our hands. We learned to quarantine ourselves if we have been exposed. We learned not to panic.. and not to take the virus to the next town in our panic.

We HAVE so much knowledge at our fingertips THANKS to the records and observations kept of those pandemics in history.

Because we have learned from our history? We find ourselves in quarantine BEFORE it gets too bad. We find ourselves bored and creating funny memes about isolation “cabin fever”.. while we wait for the virus to run it’s course.

But … we will ALSO find ourselves with a better future.

A future that MAY hold graduations later in the summer. A future with delayed vacations.. delayed celebrations ..

A future with strange new school routines.

A future that has changed us all in small ways…

For me? I’m praying that my future has our cast performing Les Miserables when the crisis is over.

And I’m praying that when we hear Marius sing about empty chairs and empty tables… that there are no empty chairs in our community..

I’m praying there are no empty chairs in our cast…

And I’m definitely praying that we did our part enough.. that I won’t have ANY empty chairs in my family.

But even if we never hear our cast sing a song rejoicing in “one day more”… ?

I’m happy that our nation and our schools gave them their best chance at being able to sing another day.

Stay safe everyone! And God be with you!

The Story of our pages …

Life is what happens when you are busy making plans… or so it is told.

Spring time is often a busy time in our household.. and we live by plans…

We plan to do our jobs..

we plans to get our kids to their functions…

We schedule fun in… so we don’t forget to relax…

… and we try to schedule time in to visit family.

But each morning we wake up .. and we turn another page in our stories… … Some pages we get to write… and can be exciting…

…some pages are full of surprises…

… and not all of those surprises are happy ones…

While we were busy writing birthday parties into our pages.. and senior pictures … and book launches….

… life added illness to our pages…

… and sadness…

This week a beloved grandma took ill suddenly… and our family watched and waited to see if she would pull through…

… we turned each page, praying and hoping…

But with the waiting?

Her children and her grandchildren told fond memories of her… my husband recalling all the delicious foods she cooked over the years.

… and laughter…

My husband’s family is full of so much laughter…

Today.. a beautiful lady passed from this world and into the next… but she will still be alive in our memories… and she lives on the pages of our stories.

The page we are on.. today?

It’s a sad one…

…. but because Grandma lived?

….the story of our family’s life is full of pages of happiness, laughter…

Not to mention all that good food..

Thank you for every happy memory Grandma Great!! We loved every minute…

Clouds..

I am fascinated by sunrises and sunsets… as are a lot of people. I take pictures of them frequently.. trying to capture their beauty on my phone.

Trying…

I never quite succeed.

But over the years I have found that the most beautiful light displays.. are (usually) the ones with clouds.

I know .. I know..

Cloudy days usually represent .. rainy days.. and gloom.. and sadness…

..but…

Without clouds.. would we see our sunny days quite so clearly?

Without hard times and struggles.. would be see our Blessings as beautifully?

Or would be just learn to take them for granted..

Would sunrises with no clouds.. become so mundane … that we forget to wake early just to watch with wonder?

Hmmm..

A life without clouds.. without tears.. without strife or hard times sounds inviting…

But for me?

The morning after a 3 day migraine.. the morning after helping my son through a long ordeal… the morning after dealing with conflict…

I am filled with hope for the future.. conviction that I will make the most of every moment…

.. and the sunrise never looked so bright.

So I will take my sunrises with clouds.. or without…

… and I’ll keep trying to capture their beauty on my cell phone …

While we’re here..

When I was a kid, trick or treating had some crazy traditions.

One neighbor made caramel apples for us.. but we had to come in for a visit. (Yes.. our mom was with us..)

Another stop gave full candy bars… but we had to tell a joke.

And yet another stop we had to tell a Bible verse.

Now after years of Sunday school and Vacation Bible school.. I knew a lot of verses.. but one that I loved to recite?

“Jesus wept.” John 11:35

I know it doesn’t sound amusing.. but for a kid? Finding the shortest Bible verse seemed like a challenge…

…and…?

I got the same big treat as my siblings who recites longer verses…

But as I grew up?

That verse came to mean a lot to my heart.

You see?

My superpower is feeling other people’s emotions…

…and well?

I cry.

…I cry a lot…

For most of my childhood and teenage years? This embarrassed me … and I fought to control those tears.

But this verse? Jesus wept. It echoed through my mind every time I teared up. I mean? If it was ok for Jesus… a grown man.. to cry in public because He was sad? If it was acceptable for the Son of God to weep openly… even though he knew that God had everything under control? Even though He KNEW that everything would work together and be beautiful … in its time?

If it was ok for Jesus to weep … even though He hadn’t lost faith in God?

Then maybe.. just maybe…?

It was OK for me to cry when I was overwhelmed.

A few weeks ago, a friend asked me to speak at her church on Mother’s Day (..ha.. I know.. it was more than a few weeks…) about my experience in parenting. How parenting a strong willed, independent sassy daughter and a son with autism (and a side of mood disorders) changed my life.

My first response was… I can’t do that… I’ll cry… in front of a whole congregation of people…

… just like Jesus did…

Then my second response… what would I talk about? How do you take 21 years of trials… errors… tears… laughter… and love… and condense it into 20 minutes?

The day I was to speak at the church was the day before my son was scheduled to start “college”. The day before we were to move my son into a dorm and he was to begin his road to independence.

Sooo… it seemed fitting to talk about how we had moved on from each disappointment… toward hope and a future. How we had taken each path we were on and looked for some good that we could do while we were there.

So I based my message on my other favorite verse…

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” ‭‭Jeremiah‬ ‭29:11‬ ‭NIV‬‬

In front of this church congregation… I talked about how I had great plans for my life… plans to change the world… and how those plans did not turn out the way I had thought they would.

In fact?

My life was nothing how I planned.

I love my life… but it is not the life I had planned for myself.

Parenting is always a challenge.. whether it is a sassy, independent, strong willed daughter…. or a son with anxiety, autism and a mood disorder.

And… well?

I had both.

Every time that my life’s path took a wide turn and took me away from the plans I had made for me and my small family? I would remind myself of this verse.. that God has a plan for me..

.. promising me hope and a future…

So I had accepted each set of changes…

..but first?

First… I had cried.

Tears to grieve for the death of the plans I had made. I cried out all the frustrations from knowing that I had to change yet again…

and then?

Then I had wiped my tears and looked around… and I’d say to myself.. “While we are here, what good can we do?”

While we are in this new place.. with new plans… what good can we do..?

And yes… I cried…

The day after Mother’s Day?

The day after I spoke about hope and a future?

We took our son to his college. We followed the plans he had made for himself.

The first day of his bright new future…

And….

He didn’t make it.

Four years of planning, and in the matter of 24 hours?

All of our plans for the next year changed.

My son and I…. ?

… we wept….

We wept for our broke dreams… his dreams of going to college and staying in a dorm…. my dreams of seeing him independent … and my dreams of being free to start a career.

We wept.

Not knowing which way to go… and having to explore different paths…? We both felt a little lost…

…but we wiped our tears… and said… while we are here what good can we do?

Over and over this summer? Our paths have changed…

Over and over this summer? We have cried…

But today?

Today… as I feel the sunshine on my face? Today as I see some confidence seep back into my son’s face?

I am reminded once again that God has promised my son a hope and a future…

I am reminded that God has promised ME a hope and a future…

He didn’t promise me the future that I dreamed up for myself… but He promised me it would prosper and not harm me…

Sooo….

Let me dry my tears one more time….

…and see what good we can do….

While we are here…..

…still warm…

Coffee in hand, I headed to my couch this morning.

The sun shone through the window and illuminated my favorite spot.

The pillow was still crinkled. The blanket was still rumpled.

In fact, it looked as if someone just got up from this spot.

It looked like it was still warm.

Instead of sitting on the couch? I sank onto the coffee table.

Too often in our lives… we take fore granted the people that sit on our couches. We expect to see our loved ones sitting in their favorite places.. forever..

.. because they are always there…

Earlier this week? A man in our community died suddenly.

One minute? He was where he always was. Running his boys to practices, helping out in the community where he was needed, calling his wife…

.. he was where he always was..

.. and now?

Now there is an empty couch cushion that is still crumpled. Like he just got up for a moment and walked from the room..

.. like he would be right back.

His spot in this world still warm.

For awhile that spot is going to feel so empty for his kids.. for his wife…

And not just the spot on the couch.

There will be an empty place in the bleachers.. an empty place in the church pew.. and empty place in the car for road trips.

.. so many empty spaces…

But the truth is?

This Dad’s presence was so strong in his family..

.. so strong in his community…

He left his presence so strong.. that those places are still warm.

And they will stay warm.

His time here was shorter than he would have wished. But he made good use of that time.

Once the pain and shock has worn off?

Once the grief starts to lessen .. a little?

We realize those empty places .. are not really empty at all. The spirit of our loved ones stay with us and occupy those seats still.

And if we keep the memories of their spirit alive?

Then the spaces will still be warm..

Beautiful encounters ..

Yesterday I went to my great aunt Shirley’s funeral.. and today we are off to celebrate the life of my husband’s cousin’s husband’s father.

I know.. I know.. it sounds like the plot line of a sitcom … but as an author?

I don’t think I could make up souls as beautiful as these.

I bet you all believe me that my great aunt touched my life..

.. but I also bet that your eyes keep drifting back to the line my husband’s cousin’s husband’s father in doubt..

Well I’ll admit that I didn’t know a lot about this man’s past.. and he was very likely not perfect. None of us are.

So if I didn’t know him well … why do I want to take time to celebrate Mick’s life?

When I saw this man at a family function? There were always a lot of people around. Family and friends gathered around having a good time. People he knew really well. Yet he walked around and had great conversations with everyone there..

He even made time for his son’s wife’s cousin’s wife..

.. even though he wouldn’t have needed to..

He always asked about how my kids were doing and how I was doing.. listening closely to what I answered. He always listened so carefully. He had this way of making you feel like you were the most important person in the room to him at that moment.

I spoke to Mick a couple weeks ago .. as we celebrated an auntie’s life. He told me about some of his medical conditions and told me about the miraculous way he pulled through them.

Not bragging..

Mick explained how Blessed he was for every moment he had on this Earth with his family .. and that he would only admit defeat when God told him he was done. Not anyone else.

He used that story to encourage me to keep reaching for the stars for my son. To not listen to anyone who said I should accept limitations.. until I saw the limits myself.

He always ended our conversations with a hug. He always told me to let him know if I needed anything because that was what family was for..

Family..

His son’s wife’s cousin’s wife…

Family.

Watching Mick walk away that last time reminds me of a beautiful butterfly I saw this summer. It landed next to me on my truck. And sat there forever allowing me to enjoy its colors and take pictures of it. The miracle of something so beautiful is so much better than anything found in fiction.

And then?

Then the butterfly took flight .. off to brighten someone else’s day.

Leaving me to feel so Blessed at that Beautiful encounter.

I am so thankful for every single beautiful encounter I had with my husband’s cousin’s husband’s dad.

.. and that is why I am going to celebrate his life today.

.. angel wings..

Everyone should have an aunt .. whose face lights up every time they walk in the room. The aunt who laughs at every joke they tell.. (no matter how many times you tell it).. and claps at every performance you give on the living room “stage”..

My kids had that..

Whenever they went to Auntie and Uncle’s house, my daughter always had a “show” planned to show her auntie. And my son always looked forward to hearing “how tall he had gotten”… and he would smile as he called her his “medium sized” auntie.

This year we watched this beautiful soul battle against cancer.

And it was hard.

Yesterday she lost the battle to cancer..

.. but she won.

She won her angel wings.

.. and we won..

We won the beautiful legacy she left behind..

My kids learned that people can have an unfamiliar accent.. and not be a stranger in your heart. My kids learned that people can look different from us and they can be called family… She taught them what a generous heart looks like… what love looks like…

She showed everyone who came to her house that they wouldn’t leave hungry..

.. she showed her grandkids that they were the most beautiful things in the world to her..

.. and.. she raised 2 beautiful, amazing daughters… I can’t imagine the depths of the legacy she planted there..

Today?

Today we are all trying to imagine a world without Auntie in it. A holiday with no heartfelt hug from her.. family get together with no “Lumpia” (probably not spelled correctly) or other Philippine dishes.. (..though I imagine we will continue to hear about her first cooking disasters told through laughter.. and a few tears..).. not seeing her sneak dollars to each of the kids in the family.. making each kid feel like they are her favorites..

.. but I am so glad that I get to know what a beautiful world it was while she was here with us..

So today .. Auntie gets a new body.. a heavenly body.. one without cancer or pain..

.. and she gets her angel wings…

But honestly? She already had those.

..washed away..

With all the rain in the south, it seemed trivial for us to worry that a sprinkle of a rain would ruin our hike yesterday… so hiking we went.

Up a VERY steep hill to see the Dead River Falls..

For me?

For me .. I was going up that steep rocky hill in flip flops..

You see? I had not anticipated that we would have time to go hiking .. so I did not come prepared with hiking shoes.

But I would never miss a chance to see a piece of wilderness.

And a beautiful piece of wilderness it was. Rugged and untamed… At one point, I left my shoes behind and continued bare footed. Not as comfortable as I would have liked (and I wouldn’t recommend it). But I was able to experience laughs with my kids, see them marvel at the beauty of it and I took so many pictures..

So prepared or not? It was worth it…

As I walked back to the rickety log bridge… I saw the most beautiful sight. A tree that stood strong and healthy.. even though half of the soil was washed away from its roots ..

The soil was washed away.. Big rocks pushed up from underneath.. it looks like gravity and a little wind would push that tree right over..

.. yet there it stands.. strong and sturdy…

And it brought tears to my eyes..

As a parent of a child with special needs?

I feel just like that tree..

.. 18 years of Autism.. 18 years of tears.. 18 years of letting go of how “things were supposed to be”.. 18 years of learning new autism research.. 18 years of medical issues.. 18 years of having life wash away at the roots I had dug into the Earth…

I should have fallen over long ago..

… but I have also had 18 years of laughter, 18 years of watching this boy grow with joy in his heart, 18 years of discovering the beautiful soul buried beneath the surface…

The laughter and joy have kept me strong and sturdy… despite the feeling of being worn down..

As I pushed back my tears.. I walked back across the log bridge .. ..my son ran towards me with a smile.. and his hand outstretched to me.. and said with confidence, “Here Mom, take my hand.”

Ok Buddy… I will take your hand. And no matter how prepared we are? …we will make it strong and sturdy…

Memories.. 

 I grew up a 1/2 mile from my grandparents’ house. An easy walk or ride from my house to theirs..

So is it any wonder that so many of my first memories had them in it?

Most of them were good memories.. at least until that heartbreaking day in fifth grade.. when they loaded up their new 5th wheel and drove to Florida for the winter ..

Even after that LONG winter FINALLY ended..  I collected good memories with them.

As the years passed, the visits became less frequent. I moved to Missouri with my husband (for his job). I became busy with my children… and schedules didn’t always  line up.

… still visits were a treasure ..

The last time I saw my gram, she didn’t recognize me. My aunts warned me ahead of time that it might happen.

But in that moment? That moment that I realized she indeed did NOT recall who I was?

It hurt .. for a moment ..

Then she smiled at me.. and patted my hand..

and I realized..

it didn’t matter if she remembered me..

Why?

Because I remembered her..

I remembered her keeping special toys at her house for us.. A little people’s school and camper..

I remembered how she would always keep fruit around to give us..

how she taught me to eat rhubarb with sugar…

how she loved the color blue, but “hated” her red hair..

How she loved working with her roses and her rhododendrons.. and her fruit trees..

how every card I ever got was simply signed “Gram K”…

I remember how she greeted every LEFT handed person she met.. how she taught us to make her potato salad.. her spending hours with us sewing clothes.. her salt & pepper collection.. and Norman Rockwell plates..

…singing with her.. laughing with her ..

And when I said “good-bye” at the end of that last visit? She smiled and said “I’m so glad I got to meet you.” That same smile that would light up her eyes.

So you see? It isn’t important that my Gram didn’t remember me in the end.. because it wasn’t really about me.

It was about her.. 

..and her legacy that she leaves behind. And as long as I remember her? As long as I continue to retell her stories and sayings?

Then she will continue to live on in our hearts ..

So tell her stories I shall..