Peace Wrapping Around Us

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6 (NIV)

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I’ve been wearing my mom’s socks; it makes me feel close to her. It is one of the ways I am navigating through grief these days and finding moments of peace during the Advent Season.

I’ve also been seeing her in my dreams. she usually doesn’t say anything; she’s not even necessarily a main part of the dream and I don’t remember all the details. it’s like watching a movie and there are people walking down the street or in the background. you see them but they’re not part of the main movie.

When she does show up in my dreams she looks like she did in her fifties. She’s dressed stylishly with her hair pulled back and she’s walking with confidence and purpose. She looks happy and peaceful.It’s seeing her like she was before the Alzheimer’s. I think these are little gifts that God has been giving me to reassure me that all is well. To remind me that she is whole now and complete in him. I still miss her terribly but I wouldn’t bring her back even if I could.  She’s dancing with Jesus and I would not take that away from her.

A few nights ago the funeral home that handled her arrangements hosted a memorial service for those who had lost loved ones this year. It was a sweet simple service that began with singing Joy to the world, followed by a message that allowed us to acknowledge our grief and accept it while encouraging us to find comfort and peace in laying our grief at the feet of Jesus.

The service ended with the song I can only imagine. When they sang the line about dancing or standing in awe I told my husband and father that I’m sure mom was dancing for Jesus. She was full of life and laughter and even in the most horrible ravages of Alzheimer’s that still Shone through.

Sitting in the sanctuary of the local Baptist Church hearing the scriptures read, listening to the words so aptly spoken, hearing the songs of worship, I began to notice that there was such a sweet spirit of peace wrapping around us. It was a peace brought on by the presence of the Lord among us but also a peace brought on by the collective grief of those present and the knowledge that we are all walking the same journey.

Even though our grief manifests itself in various ways it is still a common thread that binds us together. We know how the others feel and we know that God is our only peace.

I am thankful for that service and the reminder that it gives to me during this season of celebration.

A reminder that even in our grief we can still celebrate happy times, we can embrace our loved ones, live life fully and honor those we have lost by remembering them and making room for the grief. Joy and sorrow are not an either-or choice; they are allowed to reside together in our hearts and bring us peace and comfort.

whatever grief you are feeling during this season of Advent I pray you are leaving your heart open to be filled with God’s peace.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13 (NIV)
Grace for the journey,
Teresa
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We Hold On To Joy

Because of the Lord’s great love, we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.

Lamentations 3:22-23

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When last we spoke, well when last I wrote and you read which is still a conversation between friends, I shared with you that I wanted to do a recap post of the 31 Days of Grief Journey.  I wanted to share what I had gleaned.  I had planned to do that sooner than now but last week proved to be a week of needing extra rest. I’ve learned, due to the MCTD, to hold on loosely to plans and go with the flow.  I think, too, that I needed some extra time to let the writing settle before revisiting.

So, earlier I sat down and read through the series to see what stood out to me.  To discover what wisdom there might be that I could take away. To see what helped me and how can I summarize that for all of us as a take away to remember; knowing of course, that the journey is not over and there are more stores, memories, and lessons in the process. And of course, the ever-present grief will ebb and flow. Below is a list of 12 truths that I received from this journey.

  • Writing through my grief was designed by God; It was a calling he put on my heart (1 Thessalonians 5:24).
  • Grief is a process and it can’t be rushed. There will be times it will crush your heart (Psalm 31:18).
  • Even when we feel betrayed by God, he loves us and understands our hurt. He will make all things right in his time (Isaiah 55:8-9).
  • We can never truly lose our loved ones, they will always live in our hearts.  Remembering is necessary.  Our memories of good times with our loved ones is a source of comfort (Philippians 1:3).
  • Having a community of friends and family for support in our grief is important (Proverbs 27:9).
  • In the midst of our grief life does go on.  We can still find joy and laughter.  We can find peace in ordinary days (Psalm 23:1).
  • The floodgates will open sooner or later. Our tears are sacred and Jesus cares about them; they are collected in his bottle (Psalm 56:8).
  • Reading Scripture can be a source of strength. Remembering his promises can sustain us (Isaiah 40:31).
  • He will be our comfort (Isaiah 63:13, Matthew 5:4).
  • If we sit in the stillness we will feel his peace (Philippians 4:7).
  • we have to live in the reality of heaven’s sweetness in order to truly be at peace in this life (Hebrews 13:14, Psalm 30:11-12).
  • Christ is our only hope (John 3:16).

Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning. Psalm 30:5b

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Joy resides deep in our soul.  Grief is not the absence of joy, but the realization that even when we grieve we hold on to joy.  Joy is not crushed by our grief but rather sustains us in our grief.

The joy of the Lord is your strength. Nehemiah 8:10

Thank you for coming along on this journey with me.  I hope it has touched your heart and brought you encouragement.  If you have not read the series you can click here to be taken to the table of contents page.  Once there, clicking on each title will take you to that day’s post. I will continue to share updates on the grief journey and share stories about my Mom from time to time as well as sharing other writings.  I hope you come back. I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Grace for the journey,

Teresa

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Linking up with Emily for What we Learned.  Click over to read what others’ have learned.

Collected Tears

 

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Journal: Saturday, October 20, 2018

Today was a day of crying and praying and missing my Mom. Of all the people in the world that I can talk to and tell anything, she was always the one I could be the freest with. The one I could count on to comfort me and pray for me; to love me and forgive me when needed. So today was just a day that I really wish I could talk to her. Some days I miss her so much. I need her love, wisdom, thoughtfulness, and care. I know there will always be days like today and it won’t be easy but I know God can be my comfort. I can go to him.  I can take him my heart; I can ask for strength.  He is faithful.  He loves me even more than my mother.

I miss my Ladybug and our late night talks; our inside jokes and laughter; our trips to the Dairy Queen when we’d sneak off without telling the guys; The drives we took in the country when we were restless. I miss all of it. I love her so much. 

You keep track of all my sorrows.
    You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
    You have recorded each one in your book.                                                               Psalm 56:8 NLT

One of the things I miss the most is talking to my Mom.  Before the Alzheimer’s took so much away from her we would talk constantly. I’d call her or she’d call me and we’d talk about everything and nothing in particular.

Even after the Alzheimer’s I’d call home, Dad would answer the phone but I’d always ask to talk to Mom.  Sometimes she’d talk a while, other times she’d have trouble with the phone. Eventually, she pretty much gave up talking on the phone.

I missed our talks even while she was still living.  There were times I’d tell her things knowing that she didn’t fully comprehend, or remember later, but at the moment she’d try to let me know all would be well.

A few months before she died we had a wonderful conversation about forgiveness.  I’d recently been short with her.  I told her that I was wrong and hadn’t treated her as kindly as I should have.  We talked about forgiveness in general and what it means and I asked her if she would forgive me.  She ever so sweetly said yes she would.  Even though she probably didn’t remember the incident in question and probably didn’t remember our conversation later, at that moment she understood my need to ask forgiveness and she sincerely, without question granted it. Much like she had several years earlier when I had needed to ask for forgiveness. (you can read about that time here)

Growing up, forgiveness always flowed freely. If Mom and I had had a particularly trying day as can sometimes happen, she always made sure before bed that all was well between us.  We would talk things out and I always knew she was there for me.  Even as a small child I remember kneeling beside her to pray about whatever was troubling me. Being the melancholy child that I was it seemed I was always needing to pray or talk about something.

That did not change as a teenager.  We had lots of adventures together.  I remember one summer or two that she spent a lot of time driving me around the countryside chasing a dream of a piano player (not Rocky, that came later) that I thought I was in love with. I also remember having many late night conversations about boys, dreams, life.  It was nothing to stay up until the crack of dawn talking. Even after I had married and moved away from home, we always had at least one all-night talk session when I’d come for visits.  Rocky and Dad would come downstairs of a morning and there we’d be still sitting on the couch.

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One of our adventures at a camp meeting in the mountains of Eastern KY during one of those summers chasing a piano player. The photo bomber also had a daughter, probably chasing the same piano player.

Later, when Rocky came on the scene I wrote her a letter telling her that I was in love and I knew he was the one.  I was in college and cell phones and Facebook didn’t exist, so you either made a long distance call or wrote a letter.  I found that letter last year when going through some of her things. She had kept it all these years. I know my Mama’s level of sentimentality and I know she hung onto that letter to mark a significant time in my life that she rejoiced in with me.

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Rocky and me the early years. Mom always said she couldn’t love him more if he was her son. The minute he came on the scene, he was family and she never let me forget that. She was always on his side. Sigh. I’m glad she loved him that fiercely.

I’ve always shared my everyday life with her.  Each new adventure, each crisis, everyday moments. It was all chronicled with her. And she never failed to cheer me on or commiserate when necessary.  Every new move she was there helping and planning with me even when it took me too far from home.  She never tried to hold me back, but always rejoiced at each new opportunity.

She did tell me, as she grew older, that she missed her daughters and wished they could both move back home. She once offered to give my sister her house if she’d move back home. And my mom really loved her house. She is now buried on the hill facing her house. When Rocky and I moved to Louisville in 2007 she was glad we were closer. She and Dad would come to visit and we would go see them when we could.

In 2010 when we went in with Dad to purchase the house next door to them she was excited for us to fix up the house and be there on breaks, but before we could spend much time there the Alzheimer’s was fast approaching. When we moved there in the summer of 2012 between the seminary and whatever was to come next, it was clear that Alzheimer’s had set in and we were needed.  I know it was a God thing that we had decided to buy the house two years prior when it didn’t really make sense to do so. We had no long-term plans of settling back home once schooling was finished, but home was exactly where we needed to be.

Living there was as it should be.  Mom was restless a lot and had lots of questions about everything in the early days.  She would come to my house for reassurance or sometimes just to chat a moment.  The door was always open for her and sometimes she’d be back and forth several times a day.  We’d have the same conversations, mostly with her trying to make sense of the muddle in her mind.  Memoires were hiding and bits and pieces would show up and she’d need me to help her make sense of it all.  She trusted me and I did all I could to honor that trust.

Even in the difficulty of living with Alzheimer’s, we had some good times and lots of laughter.  I wouldn’t trade those days for anything.  But sometimes I’d miss our old conversations.  The last couple of months before she passed away there were several times I’d think I need to call Mom only to immediately remember that things were different.  I went through a spell in the summer of nesting and tweaking my living room, buying lamps and finally hanging pictures.  All the things I would have discussed with Mom.  So, I called my Dad and shared with him.  I suppose I could have told mom, but I knew it wouldn’t be the same and I also knew that she might not even engage at all on the phone.  I wish I’d tried anyway.

Since her passing, I have had several times where I wish I could talk to her or something will happen and my first thought is to call Mom.  I’ve needed so much to hear her words of wisdom, comfort, and encouragement. I’ve needed to laugh with her. There are times that you just need your mother because no one understands you like she does. In those times I remind myself that God can comfort me and that he truly understands.

I cling to all the hope, dry my eyes, and do my best to live life without my Ladybug.

There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love. ~~ Washington Irving

Another song for you to listen to, For Those Tears I Died

Grace for the journey,

Teresa

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My mom, the cheerleader (8th grade, Mt. Carmel) standing by the fence in front of their church turned house where they lived in Beechburg, KY.
This home is now a garage and
my best friend recently purchased the property.
My Mom has always been my biggest cheerleader.

Come back tomorrow for more of the journey?  Just a reminder that I usually post later in the day. Clicking on the ladybug graphic will take you to the first page in this series with links to the daily posts. Thanks for reading!

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Spread Happiness

The most simple things can bring the most happiness.  ~~ Izabella Scorupco

One of the things that my Grandmother, Mom and  I have in common is the love of rocks and other bits and pieces of nature. When organizing Mom’s antique secretary after she passed away I ran across a bowl of leaves.  I left them there.  I inadvertently threw away a dried up piece of twig that she had brought in from the yard just a few days before she passed away.  My father was looking for it but I had already cleaned the sideboard and thrown it away not realizing what it was or that he wanted to hang on to it.

My niece remembered as a child that she and my nephew would pick the little wild field daisies and dandelions and bring them to my mom.  I remember many times seeing them in little containers on the sink or table as a reminder of a happy day well spent with the grandkids.  In honor of those memories, they sent a beautiful wreath of daisies for her memorial service. Those flowers then and now are far more precious than diamonds or rubies.

I know it’s sentimental really to hang on to such seemingly trivial bits and pieces but sometimes it is the small things that invoke a tender memory or happy thought of our loved ones.

My mother has two large rocks that belonged to her mother.  One of them came from a long-ago trip to Arizona and I’m not sure where the other one came from but it is large, round, brown and smooth.  I remember seeing that rock at my grandmother’s when I was a child, leaning against a door to prop it open. My mother almost gave it to me once, but then changed her mind. I’m glad she kept it to enjoy, I’m sure seeing it reminded her of her mother and her love of rocks and other bits of nature.

One of the days we were at Hospice  I found a painted rock that had been left outside near the front entry. It was painted in shades of green and blue, colors that Mom would have loved. It had a message painted on it that said spread happiness. A  fitting message for someone who had spent her life spreading happiness to others. I brought it inside for her room.

I don’t know If you have heard about the painted rock sensation that has been around now for a few years; it is a group of people that paint rocks with messages and leave them in public places for others to find. It originated with a woman in Massachusetts who started the Kindness Rocks Movement. She started a trend that has gone worldwide and there are several smaller groups that have cropped up as well, all doing basically the same thing.  There is a group in the community where our Hospice was located, called Maysville KY hidden rocks.

The premise is that you find a rock, enjoy it and then rehide it for someone else to discover.if you decide to keep the rock that is ok too.  But you are encouraged to paint your own rock to hide.

Knowing my mom’s love of rocks my Dad put it in her hand and told her about the rock. He let her hold it for quite a while and then he placed it on the table beside her bed. When I told him about the history of painted rocks he decided he wanted to keep this one since it was the last thing that my mom held.  When he got back home, he put it on the back porch near where they would sit as a reminder of her.

Moms painted rock, picture takne by Pamela Smith and shared on Maysville rocks FB page
Moms painted rock, the picture was taken and shared on Maysville KY hidden rocks Facebook page. The lady who took the photo had seen the rock and took a picture, but left the rock for someone else to find. So glad she did as it brought happiness to our day. It was leaning against the trash can just before the main entrance to Hospice at Kenton Pointe.

I guess we are a sentimental bunch and many would roll their eyes at keeping rocks, leaves, wildflowers, also known as weeds, and other bits of nature, but that’s how we roll. It’s not the expensive things or material possessions that mean the most in the end.  It’s the simple things, more often than not from nature, that spark our greatest sentimentality and spread happiness.

Happy are the people whose God is the Lord! Psalm 144:15

Grace for the journey,

Teresa

Moms painted rock, picture takne by Pamela Smith and shared on Maysville rocks FB page

Postscript:  I had a conversation on FB earlier with the lady who posted the picture of the rock we found. Turns out she had seen my Mom back in February when Mom had been on a Hospice respite and had talked with her. She told me she would lead her back to the nurse’s station when Mom seemed confused.  That was a blessing to find out that someone had been so kind to her. I would never have known that if I hadn’t decided to look for the origin of the rock. God always sends us the blessing we need at the time we need them. How’s that for spreading happiness!

Blessings!

 

Come back tomorrow for more of the journey?  Just a reminder that I usually post later in the day. Clicking on the ladybug graphic will take you to the first page in this series with links to the daily posts. Thanks for reading!

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Complete

and in Him, you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority;

Colossians 2:10 (New Am. Standard)

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My beautiful Ladybug as a young woman dressed in her Sunday best.

Edited from thoughts I put on my phone app October 10, 2018:

I know from a scientific standpoint that it probably wouldn’t make sense to say that a person with Alzheimer’s could, in their final days, be cognizant or whole again. But, I would like to think that the week we spent with Mom in Hospice that she did have an understanding of the things we were telling her and even though she wasn’t completely alert that somehow she was comprehending.

I know when Dad told her he loved her she responded and tried to tell him she loved him.  I know when my brother’s family were with her she tried her best to sit up and engage with them.   And, when my Aunt Jenny’s name was mentioned she reached up her arms as if to hug her.

I know that she knew when my sister was by her side. It wasn’t until after my sister arrived that she slipped deeper into a sleep state, so I know she was waiting for my sister.  We all had moments with her and I know she was comforted to hear our words of love and affirmation.

The day I was telling her how beautiful she was and how I  was going to see that people read her poetry I know she perked up and understood what I was saying.  I also told her that I was going to do my best to see that all of her family made it to heaven. I feel that she was not just hearing me, but that she was understanding the way she would have before the Alzheimer’s. I think she was fully aware.

I just need to mention that even in the final stages of Alzheimer’s she responded well to us but there were facts missing.  She recognized love, and that we were familiar, but she didn’t always know exactly who we were.  There were many things we’d talk about, but complete comprehension of facts and details was missing.  Those are the things I think God restored to her that final week.  Knowledge of exactly who we were and full comprehension of what everything meant.   Those details that made the love even more special to her.

I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted. Job 42:2 NIV

Science knows a lot, but there is much not known as well.  God knows all things including what science doesn’t know. With him all things are possible and his purpose will be accomplished. So, to me, it makes sense that in my Mom’s final days he could restore her mind and give her those moments of clarity as her loved ones told her their final goodbyes. I’d like to think it was God’s gift to all of us.

She is now completely restored and basking in the Love of her heavenly father. And that is the greatest gift of all.

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good. His love endures forever. Psalm 136:1 NIV

Grace for the journey,

Teresa

Come back tomorrow for more of the journey?  Just a reminder that I usually post later in the day. Clicking on the ladybug graphic will take you to the first page in this series with links to the daily posts. Thanks for reading!

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Christ Our Only Hope

O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?

Isaiah 15:55

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Is Death The Victory

What is it that comes trespassing on my threshold,

Trying to seize me as its prey?

It has come unexpectedly; a peculiar unwanted guest.

It seems to be a shadow, robbing self of its rest.

Countless times it comes to scores with me

In sickness, peril, or accidents unavoidable.

It is there, this dreaded enemy;

It seems to be allowing time, yet it has no timetable.

Is there no way to escape that my spirit might be free

From this visitor who at my appointed time will join ranks with me?

To think I could escape would be pretending a farce.

I’d be robbed all joys of living; left hopeless without faith.

Ah! There is another victor stronger than death itself.

By the eye of faith, I vision everlasting life.

My faith soars upward as on an eagle’s wing

Christ’s is the final victory; O death where is thy sting!

 

Written By Letha Bernice Tackett

Fall 1975

“I do believe Christ is the only hope.” Those words were written by my Mom at the end of the above poem.  She was right.  Christ is our only hope.  If we are in Christ, death has no victory over us. She is now enjoying everlasting life. Even in my grief, I recognize that the victory is now hers and I am happy that she is soaring on Eagles wings.

Grace for the journey,

Teresa

Come back tomorrow for more of the journey?  Just a reminder that I usually post later in the day. Clicking on the ladybug graphic will take you to the first page in this series with links to the daily posts. Thanks for reading!

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See You Later

Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted.   Matthew 5:4 NIV

Recently I was with my life-long friend as she said goodbye to her sister. I knew how deeply her heart was hurting. I hugged her tight hoping that my heart would touch hers and she would feel a measure of comfort.

Several of you have let me know that you too understand how deeply it hurts to say goodbye to someone you love.

Goodbye is a word we use every day without giving it much thought. We say goodbye as we rush out the door on our way to work, or running errands. We pack for a trip and tell our loved ones goodbye.  But, when goodbye involves losing someone close to us it takes on significance. We realize that this is not a simple goodbye like hanging up the phone to end a conversation.  This is a goodbye that says it hurts to let you go, I’m not sure how to do life without you.

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I remember as we were leaving Mom after she’d passed away, I told her goodbye and that I’d see her later. Specifically, I said, “goodbye my Sweetie pie, Honeybunch, Ladybug, Bernie Lou,” pet names for her that sometimes I said all at once to make her laugh.

Leaving her behind, knowing that our journey with her had come to an end was bittersweet. We were exhausted, not just from a week in hospice with little sleep, but also from several years of facing down the demon of Alzheimer’s.  In that context, letting her go seemed the merciful option.  Still, having to let go brought a crushing blow to the heart.

A blow that at random moments crushes all over again. Yet, in spite of the crushing, I feel stirrings of hope and I know my friend does too because for us, saying goodbye to our loved ones is not a final goodbye, but more of a see you later because as believers in Jesus Christ we have the hope of eternal life and seeing them again.  That is the comfort in the mourning.

I pray that you too have that hope in seeing your loved one again.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

John 3:16 KJV

Grace for the journey,

Teresa

Come back tomorrow for more of the journey?  Just a reminder that I usually post later in the day. Clicking on the ladybug graphic will take you to the first page in this series with links to the daily posts. Thanks for reading!

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