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.

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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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Flatwoods

My people will live in peaceful dwelling places,
    in secure homes,
    in undisturbed places of rest.

Isaiah 32:18 NIV

When my Mom was a child her family lived in Flatwoods, Kentucky while my grandfather worked for the railroad.  For some reason, my mom always equated living there with some of her best memories, even though she was only four at the time.  She told me that when one of the babies was born the children were sent to Preacher Cyrus’s house around the corner (Billy Ray’s grandfather).  His children played with Mom’s older siblings and it seems that when there was a birth they were sent to the Cyrus home to wait it out.

One of her memories was of an upstairs room wallpapered in newspaper print.  She remembered a skeleton on the paper, probably from an advertisement.  She also remembered walking across the back alley to the post office.  Once some cousins from grandma’s side of the family sent them a large box of clothes with chocolate laying on top.  She remembered having to help her brother Bill, lug the box home from the post office.

 

The blue house was the one Mom lived in; White house was the Cyrus house

Several years ago she and Dad went back to Flatwoods looking for the house and the old post office. The post office no longer existed but the foundation was there.  They stopped to take a look; a local policeman stopped by to see if he could help them.  They shared their story with him and he confirmed that the post office had at one time stood on that spot. They had trouble finding the street she had lived on so they stopped in at a local mart for directions.  A gentleman there remembered the Maddox’s – turned out he had played with Mom’s brother, Billy, so he knew exactly where they needed to go.  When they arrived at the house the current owners came out to talk to them and showed them around their home. Some things had changed over the years but Mom still recognized it.  It was a great day for Mom getting to revisit a place that had been lodged in her heart since childhood.

In 2014, before Mom’s memories were completely gone and she still mentioned Flatwoods we took another drive.  By this time the street she had lived on had been renamed Cyrus Ct. after Billy Ray. The house he owned pre-Achy Breaky Heart sits next door to the house Mom had lived in. This time we had to go to the Library to find the directions because Mom’s memories were scattered, Dad couldn’t remember the name of the first street we needed to turn on and the alley behind the house had been opened so it was situated a little different.

All we had to go on was that it was around the corner from the Cyrus home, so I marched into the Flatwoods library and told them we were looking for my Mom’s childhood home that was around the corner from the Cyrus’s.  I’m sure they thought we were just curious and being nosy.  They got out the map and showed us the street and explained how to get there. So we did a drive by and took a few pictures.  It was a bittersweet day because I knew Mom’s memories were fading fast and that it would probably be her last trip to Flatwoods to walk down memory lane.

 

I’m not sure of the reason that Flatwoods had such a tug on Mom’s heart but it did. It seemed that Flatwoods represented a happy time in her life. Don’t we all have memories of those places that represent some of our greatest happiness in life?  I’m glad we took her back one last time.

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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I Won’t Lose You

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

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From the archives – September 21, 2015

I look out my window and see you standing there, all forlorn in your red jacket and shoes.  My heart breaks into a million pieces as you look around lost in another world.

I’m helpless to fix you. I wish I could take you in my arms, hold you tight and make the pain go away.

Memories of things said in haste flood my mind; things I wish I could unsay because I didn’t know. I didn’t know you couldn’t always help it; I didn’t know how bad you were hurting.

How we were all hurting.   Walking around in a fog trying to make sense of the new normal.  In many ways we are all ill – it has changed us.  We dig deep trying to find answers; trying to hold onto hope, but failing in so many ways.

I don’t want you to leave before you go.  I want you full and present while you’re still with us.  I know it’s not about me, it’s not about any of us really.

We’re the burden bearers reaching out to you to offer comfort, accepting the reality that it’s never enough.  I stifle screams for mercy and laugh with you over whimsy and words that have no meaning.

The laughter is the mask that helps us live, otherwise, we’d cry tears unto death.  We won’t give in without fighting.  I won’t lose you.  You are still you.,

I wait for a glimmer of your essence and thank God for you. I blink away tears as I watch you walk away and I pray for mercy, strength, and peace.

Later, I’ll cry those tears and hope they wash everything new again.

 

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I came across the above words from the blog archives last night as I was planning ahead for today’s post:

Journal – October 5, 2018

I still remember the day I looked out my window and saw Mom standing on the sidewalk beside her house.  She had on her favorite denim dress, red canvas, shoes and a red jacket.  Red was always one of her colors. I will never forget how she was standing there, staring across the yard.  She seemed so defenseless and I just wanted to run to her, hug her close and tell her everything would be alright. That memory still breaks my heart.

One thing that stands out to me was the resolve not to lose her.  It didn’t matter if she was losing memories, I would remember for both of us.  I told her on several occasions that she didn’t have to worry about what she couldn’t remember because I’d remember for her. And many times I did just that. She’d ask questions about people or events and I’d give her the answers. As many times as it took.

Another way that I held on to not losing her was humor.  She could still say things to make me laugh.  At times in the middle of a conversation, she would come out with a one-liner that hit the nail on the head that made us all take notice.  She loved to tease people and make them smile.

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Mom as a teenager teasing one of her nephews.

As devastating as Alzheimer’s is I’m convinced that if we hold on tight it can never truly take away the essence of a person.  Mom’s personality still shone through and for that, I am eternally grateful.

I’m starting to realize that even though she is gone now I can never truly lose her. She will always live in my heart and my memories. Maybe you can relate.

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I hope you don’t mind my sharing from the archives. Yesterday’s post was draining and in preparing for today’s I couldn’t find direction until I came across this old post and it somehow seemed like the right time to share it again.  Memoires are an important part of the grieving process.

Grace for the journey,

Teresa

 

Come back MONDAY for more of the journey? I don’t plan to post on Sunday’s. 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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I Won’t Lose You

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I look out my window and see you standing there, all forlorn in your red jacket and shoes.  My heart breaks into a million pieces as you look around lost in another world.

I’m helpless to fix you. I wish I could take you in my arms, hold you tight and make the pain go away.

Memories of things said in haste flood my mind; things I wish I could unsay because I didn’t know. I didn’t know you couldn’t always help it; I didn’t know how bad you were hurting.

How we were all hurting.   Walking around in a fog trying to make sense of the new normal.  In many ways we are all ill – it has changed us.  We dig deep trying to find answers; trying to hold onto hope, but failing in so many ways.

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I don’t want you to leave before you go.  I want you full and present while you’re still with us.  I know it’s not about me, it’s not about any of us really.

We’re the burden bearers reaching out to you to offer comfort, accepting the reality that it’s never enough.  I stifle screams for mercy and laugh with you over whimsy and words that have no meaning.

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The laughter is the mask that helps us live, otherwise, we’d cry tears unto death.  We won’t give in without fighting.  I won’t lose you.  You are still you.,

I wait for a glimmer of your essence and thank God for you..I blink away tears as I watch you walk away and I pray for mercy, strength, and peace.

Later, I’ll cry those tears and hope they wash everything new again.

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Hoping in grace,

Teresa

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postscript:  a few years ago my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.  It has been a long painful journey, but it has also had pockets of joy and gifts.  I don’t write about it much because it is so painful.  I have begun to realize that in the writing, a bit of understanding and healing lurks in the words, so today I shared some recent thoughts.  I didn’t do much editing, letting the words speak for themselves they way they were felt.  

Prompted By A Man’s Life

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Today’s post is Part of a 31 Day writing series where I will choose moments from my life and let them be my writing prompt for the day.  Click on the button to the left for the complete series.

 

A man’s life is defined by What he leaves behind. We live and work.  We worry about living well, but in the end all that is left when we are gone is the memory of how we touched the lives of others.

Yesterday evening my husband went to choir practice where he was filling in for a friend, mentor and former professor.  He came home saddened by the news that this fine gentleman was in Hospice care.  This morning the news came in an email that he had passed away.

He had been battling cancer for the past year, so we knew he was ill, but my husband had just talked to him last week when he had called to see if Rocky would play for him this week at church.  He mentioned that he was so tired, but never gave any indication that he was so close to the end.

Over the past year and a half, this man was such an encouragement to my husband as he was searching for teaching positions.  He was one of Rocky’s references and he kept Rocky on his list of people to call when he needed someone to fill his shoes when he was out of town playing gigs.

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He was an award-winning jazz pianist and had a prolific career.  He was well-respected in the music world.  I went to his Facebook page earlier to read some of the many condolences and memories from friends and former students.  Many people referenced how he was now playing for the angels.  I’m pretty sure this is his biggest gig yet!

There are always memories and stories to tell when someone leaves this world; there are always the accolades and the list of accomplishments but the testimonials of a man’s character and how he was an influence in the lives of so many is the real legacy.

Therefore, my dear brothers, be steadfast, unmovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that the work that you do for the Lord isn’t wasted. 1 Corinthians 15:58

Remembering in grace,

Teresa

Leaning Into The Curves

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My Aunt, Virginia Miller, better known as Aunt Jenny, leaned into her last curve and made it home on Friday, March 28.  On Tuesday April 2, we gathered and gave her a proper send-off.  It was amazing to see how many lives she touched over the years.  Many of them, like me, people who learned lessons from the way she lived her life. She was the third of my mom’s sisters to go home over the past five months.  A great loss for our family, but what a gain for them to be home with Jesus.

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A few years ago I wrote the following essay about Aunt Jenny, but never published it on my blog, or even shared it with her.  I kept thinking I would send it to her and I wish I had, but as with a lot of things in life, we never quite do all that we mean to.  I know she loved her family well, including her nieces and nephews.  I also know we loved her well.  I want to share the story with you today as a way to remember.

(Written January 10, 2011)

Aunt Jenny is the real deal. A bona fide woman of God. She loves Him. She lives by his book. And She trusts him with everything. I know this because I’ve known her all my life. And I know her family. I know where she’s been and I know where she’s going.

I remember one time we were going somewhere and Aunt Jenny was riding with us. She was in the backseat with my sister and me. We were on a curvy road. I don’t know what I said (I was probably secretly a little scared of the winding road), but it prompted Aunt Jenny to remark that the curves weren’t really all that bad; you just had to lean into them. And she proceeded to do just that.

So, here we were riding in the car, leaning into the curves whether we wanted to or not because Aunt Jenny was. At the time I remember thinking the whole thing was a little silly. I even remember my sister and I laughing about it later. In fact quite a few times over the years it sort of became our mantra – just lean into the curves. Wow, how little did we realize how profound that advice really is.

Now that I’m no longer a silly teenager, well at least no longer a teenager, It turns out Aunt Jenny was right. When riding in cars, if you lean into the curves they don’t seem so bad. They especially didn’t seem so bad a few years later when I had a guy and was in love. Leaning into the curves then was rather fun, but that’s another story.

I’ve come to realize that Aunt Jenny’s advice applies to life. Life throws us a lot of curves and it just works better if you lean into them and ride them out. Sooner or later the road unwinds a little and you can breath again.

I think Aunt Jenny probably knew even then that leaning into the curves is a metaphor for living life. She has had a lot of curves to lean into over the years. She has ridden them out well. With grace and dignity. She taught her children to do the same. She still rides the curves with grace and dignity and so do her children.  There is a gentleness about her in her golden years that reminds me of my grandmother. And those who know me well, know that to equate anybody with grandma is the utmost in status.

I saw a picture of Aunt Jenny on Facebook recently that one of her family had posted. It touched a chord deep inside of me. It was taken during a time when Aunt Jenny was riding out a curve in her life. In the picture she is hugging her son, Jeff, and she has such a sweet expression on her face. You can tell she is holding onto him for dear life as if pouring all her love into him. That’s just the kind of woman she is. That picture, for me, tells the story of Aunt Jenny. It shows her strength and her vulnerability. It shows her grace and her trust. It shows the heritage she is building for her children.

Honestly, it is the perfect picture of how God loves us. I just imagine him holding us for dear life, pouring all his love into us and letting us know that he is leaning with us in the curves.

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Thanks, Aunt Jenny. I love you.

Remembering in Grace,

Teresa