I Won’t Forget You 

As a former foster mother I often wonder about the children we sheltered for a season. A few I still have contact with and I’m so glad. Seven we adopted and I’m glad about that too. But the others, those are the ones I wonder about. 

How are they? Are they happy? Do they have children of their own? Do they remember us? Will we hear from them one day? I wonder. 

One of those was a young boy we loved very much. His name was Carlos. He was not Hispanic and so many people asked him why he was named Carlos that he asked us to start calling him Chuck. He said he liked that name because of Chuck Norris. 

He made us laugh with his slow drawl and his matter-of-fact attitude. He was with us from the time he was 8 until he was 10. He adored Daddy Henry. 

When DHR managed to make contact with a birth family member who wanted to take him, we tried to be glad for him, but it was a sad time for us all. 

About eight years ago, he called us. We were thrilled to hear from him after so long. We encouraged him to come see us. He declined. He said he didn’t want us to see him as he was. He said he had made some mistakes. He said he had been arrested. He said he was struggling with drugs. He told us of the harsh treatment, neglect and abuse he experienced at the hand of the family members who had taken him in. I cried. 

And then as suddenly as we had been reconnected, we were disconnected. We lost touch. Since then I occasionally check social media and google his name. Just hoping and wondering. 

This morning was one of those times and I finally found some information. It was not what I expected or hoped for. It was his obituary. He had passed away at the young age of 24. I don’t even know how. We didn’t even get to say good-bye. 

Now my heart grieves for a child I have lost twice. I have told myself I should have done more, better, tried harder. When I shared what I had discovered with my husband, he was deeply saddened. He told me he should have been more diligent in praying for him. He said he was so sad to think of all the potential he had that was never realized. 

I wanted to remember him and the best way I could do that was to write these words. We love you Chuck! You’ll always have a place in our hearts. We are thankful to have known you. Farewell sweet boy. 

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Worth Remembering 

Thirty-three years ago this month my first baby was due to be born. Thirty-two years ago this past May my second baby was due to be born. I know their names and I know their ages but, I do not know them. Yet. I do not know them yet. Our getting to know each other was delayed but not destroyed. There’s a difference. A really big difference.
This morning as I considered them and how things might have been, my heart was squeezed tight. We were so young. Times were so different. The best of intentioned people said to me what had likely been said to them at similar times. It didn’t help. Please weigh your words carefully when you are speaking to a grieving person.

We had the hope of others, more children without any notion that we would never achieve pregnancy again. Infertility? What was that? Whatever it was surely wasn’t anything we needed to know about. We were young and healthy and deeply in love. Of course, we were assured, there would be more pregnancies and other children. We were naive when it came to such things.
The biting remarks started early on. How can I remember some of them when thirty years has passed? I suppose that is proof of their impact.

Only years later did I realize the full impact of the losses we had experienced and allow myself to grieve. It was then that our babies had proper names and a proper place in our heart. It was then that God began to heal my broken heart. It was then that we answered the call to foster children. They needed parents albeit sometimes very temporarily. We needed children to nurture and love until we would one day be reunited with our Jacob Jeremy and Tessie Alicia. We had experienced great loss. These children were experiencing great loss. We could love them with an understanding.

Forty-five children entered our homes and lives. Seven of these became our forever children through the miracle of adoption. Others have found permanent places in our hearts although we did not adopt them legally. I call them my spiritual children. I am a #momofmany. I am blessed beyond measure.
Yet, today I remember my first two children. Today I wanted to tell you about them so you would remember with me. Today, my heart squeezes a bit as I consider the great loss of not only two children, but, two lifetimes of memories and experiences and opportunities. They are worth remembering. They are worth celebrating. Every child is a blessing, even when we have to wait a while to hold them.

If you have experienced pregnancy or infant loss, allow yourself to grieve. Just remember, don’t allow grief to have you. A few short days from now is a Remembrance Day. Light a candle, say a prayer, write out your feelings, seek support, remember those worth remembering. Then, wipe your tears and live your life with great hope. Our loss is temporary. Our reunion will be sweet. Then, we will be complete.

Grandpa’s Blessing 

If you had known my Grandpa you might not would have been as fond of him as I was. He was, well, he could be quite abrasive to those who rubbed him the wrong way. Or perhaps it was to those he wanted to rub the wrong way. He didn’t pull punches, you always knew his honest and possibly offensive opinion. But, as for me, I adored him. He was a constant in my life. One of those always there people. A safe place. He potty trained me. He let me hold up giant bullfrogs after a night of frog gigging. He once asked me if I ever ran out of words. I answered proudly that I did not.
When he was diagnosed with cancer I was young newly married girl. I was devastated and heart-broken. It promised to be my first real experience with grief. 
He was so sick. He began to mellow, starkly so. Others began to see what I already knew. Under that rough exterior was a tender heart. I can’t begin to express my joy of seeing his heart soften towards matters of faith. His body was not healed but, right before our eyes, his soul was made whole. 
It was as if at the end of his life he could finally unwrap the grave clothes that had been wrapped in layers around his heart. I think sometimes that is what we do when we face pain and he had faced plenty. 
A rough childhood during rough times. The death of his first child as an infant when the umbilical cord wrapped around her in the womb. Her name was Charlotte. His time in WWII changed him forever. I was able to get him to share bits and pieces. It was horrific and he refused to talk about it much. The death of his oldest son and namesake as a young adult added to the layers of grief and pain. A house burning down to the ground and starting over again in retirement years. He knew about pain. 
But, there at the end of his days when physical pain was so intense, he seemed to be released from the emotional pain. It was a beautiful sight to behold. 
As we would come and go from the different states we all lived in, to visit with him, he began to say the very same thing each time we would leave. “Y’all be good to each other.” Every time, every single time, he would say that. 
After he was gone, Grandma took up the baton and she would say the same words. It became our family blessing. Our family banner. It was Grandpa’s Blessing. “Y’all be good to each other.”
Now, they are both gone from this earth and I feel confident that they are indeed being good to each other. 
As my children are growing and being married and becoming engaged, I find myself wanting to say those same words. I want to say it to others as well. I want to remind folks of the brevity of life and the importance of relationships and the power of love. I want to warn those who will listen of the dangers of complacency and the risks of compromise and the cruelty of unkind words. I want to tell them, I want to tell you. “Be good to each other.”

Maybe we shouldn’t have to be reminded of something so seemingly obvious. But, I think we do. Too many times we are more focused on being right, proving our point and guarding ourselves against being taken advantage of that we forget. We forget that faith and family and friends are what matters. We forget to be good to each other just because we can. 

Today, this weekend, I pray that we will all look for opportunities to be good to each other. Take my Grandpa’s blessing as your own if you’d like with my blessing. Remind yourself and remind others. “Be good to each other.”

 
  

Good Grief

Grief is guaranteed. When we are separated from those we love, we grieve. I’m no grief expert but, I have experienced grief. As a matter of fact, I am grieving right now. 

Why do we grieve? We grieve loss. All types of loss can result in grief. As with all emotions, there are many degrees of grief. There are many forms. There are many expressions of grief. 

Because we are complicated beings, grief can be very complicated. I don’t intend to imply that we can simplify the process of it nor deny the pain that accompanies it, but, I do think there are some simple steps we can take to survive it. 

First of all, if you are a Christian as I am, there is no greater comfort to be found than in our faith. It changes everything about grief as we are assured that our separation is temporary. This is one of our blessed assurances. This life is only part of our journey. But, beyond our beliefs, there are steps we can take to make sure that while we have grief, grief does not have us. 

1 – Go ahead and cry. It does relieve some of the erupting emotions of your heart. But, after you’ve cried, laugh or smile. Make sure you recall a special memory or funny moment so that emotionally you end on a positive note. Do this on purpose. This will validate your right to mourn and still feel joy. 

2 – Share your grief with others. Join a grief support group or get together with family and friends who have experienced the same or similar losses. Talk about it. Be honest. Encourage another hurting person. Don’t be a closet griever. There is great strength to be found in fellowship with like-minded folks. 

3 – Write it down. Keep a journal. For emotional pain, I prefer a real pen and paper. Something about pouring your feelings out in writing is extraordinarily therapeutic. Burn it if you feel you must when you are done. Use that pen to relieve some of the grief. You can almost feel it siphoning off the pressure of a broken heart. 

4 – Remember them with small intentional acts. My friend introduced me to Chai tea. As I’ve grieved her death, I will often make myself a cup and recall our times at the coffee shop as we pondered Scripture. Every time I make chicken and dumplings for my family, I think of my beloved Grandma making them for me. Each time I crochet a certain pattern I remember the cherished person who taught me and her smiling face encouraging me. 

5 – Give it time. We will never forget. We don’t even want to forget. But, time will lessen the intensity of the pain and make it more bearable. 

6 – Honor their memory. Donate to a charity they supported. Contribute to a missionary in their name. Mow their mom’s yard. Take their husband a casserole. Pray for their children. Tutor a child who is struggling. Help a hurting person. Whatever you do, do it with a smile and in their memory. Invest in others as a testimony of how they invested in you. 

7 – Live your life and enjoy it. Embrace each day with as much enthusiasm as you can muster. This does not dilute your loss or discount your grief. Instead it declares that each day is indeed precious and should never be taken for granted. 

8 – Ask for help if you feel stuck and unable to move on. See a counselor, confide in a pastor, find a therapist. Whatever it takes, don’t slip into a rut and settle down there. Don’t be ashamed to admit you need some guidance. This doesn’t mean you are weak of character or lacking in faith. It means you are wise enough to ask. 

My prayers are with you that are grieving. I’m praying as I write these words that those who read them will be encouraged and comforted. 

  

Worth Remembering

Thirty-one years ago this month my first baby was due to be born. Twenty-nine years ago this past May my second baby was due to be born. I know their names and I know their ages but, I do not know them. Yet. I do not know them yet. Our getting to know each other was delayed but not destroyed. There’s a difference. A really big difference.

I was surprised to have unbidden tears spill down my cheeks this morning as I considered them and how things might have been. We were so young. Times were so different. The best of intentioned people said to me what had likely been said to them. It didn’t help. Please weigh your words carefully when you are speaking to a grieving person.

We had the hope of others, more children without any notion that we would never achieve pregnancy again. Infertility? What was that? Whatever it was surely wasn’t anything we needed to know about. We were young and healthy and deeply in love. Of course, we were assured, there would be more pregnancies and other children. We were naive when it came to such things.

The biting remarks started early on. How can I remember some of them when thirty years has passed? I suppose that is proof of their impact.

Only years later did I realize the full impact of the losses we had experienced and allow myself to grieve. It was then that our babies had proper names and a proper place in our heart. It was then that God began to heal my broken heart. It was then that we answered the call to foster children. They needed parents albeit sometimes very temporarily. We needed children to nurture and love until we would one day be reunited with our Jacob Jeremy and Tessie Alicia. We had experienced great loss. These children were experiencing great loss. We could love them with an understanding.

Forty-five children entered our homes and lives. Seven of these became our forever children through the miracle of adoption. Others have found permanent places in our hearts. I call them my spiritual children. I am a #momofmany. I am blessed beyond measure.

Yet, today I remember my first two children. Today I wanted to tell you about them so you would remember with me. Today, my heart squeezes a bit as I consider the great loss of not only two children, but, two lifetimes of memories and experiences and opportunities. They are worth remembering. They are worth celebrating. Every child is a blessing, even when we have to wait a while to hold them.

If you have experienced pregnancy or infant loss, allow yourself to grieve. Just remember, don’t allow grief to have you. A few short days from now is a Remembrance Day. Light a candle, say a prayer, write out your feelings, seek support, remember those worth rendering. Then, wipe your tears and live your life with great hope. Our loss is temporary. Our reunion will be sweet. Then, we will be complete.

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There is Coming a Day

There is Coming a Day

Are you familiar with the old hymn, “There is Coming a Day”? I am. I have been thinking about it a lot the last couple of days. One of the verses includes these words written by Jim Hill and made popular in the 60’s in Southern Gospel.

“There’ll be no sorrow there,
No more burdens to bear,
No more sickness, no pain,
No more parting over there;”

‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:4 NIV)

There is coming a day, I believe that, I truly do. But, that day is not today. Today we still face sorrow, despair, pain, sickness, disease, burdens, troubles and yes, there are plenty of tears. The last few days have been a stark reminder of this fact as a family we know and love have suddenly and tragically lost their son of 17. The night it happened I could not sleep; I could barely breathe. I prayed and cried and read my Bible until I was too exhausted to do anything else but lie in the dark. Tears still slipped down my cheeks as I tried to squeeze them back. I could not bear the thought of the enormous pain that my friend must be feeling.

I would have to tell my sons the next morning that they were parted from their friend. The looks of unbelief on their faces, the sobs, the questions, the shock will be etched in my memory for many years until perhaps the waves and weather of time lessen their raw edges and fade the imprint they have left.

I would attend a service at our church where we would gather together and share the grief that had barged into our lives unwelcome and uninvited. I would be firmly reminded of the great blessing of a Christian Body that has learned to work together during time of crisis, during terrible times just like this. There would be a message of encouragement, an abundance of wordless hugs and more tears. And yet, no matter how our hearts ached, we knew full well it was nothing at all compared to what our friends must feel.

They do not face this great loss alone. They are surrounded by a supportive and loving family. They are undergirded by a caring and ministering church body. They have friends. They have community. They have each other. While all of this is wonderful and while I know they are so thankful, if that is all they had it would still not be enough to face the days ahead. They do have enough, however, because they know that what man can never do even with the best of intentions and abilities, God can do. He is able. He is enough. God is enough.

I don’t know what you may be facing today or what I may face tomorrow or next week or next year. What I do know is I don’t want to face it alone. I know none of us have to. When the burdens of our lives are too heavy, when we are reminded that our load is too much, that we are not enough, we can choose to accept the comfort, strength and help the Lord offers.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matthew 11:28, 29 NIV)

It is that rest that we long for and so desperately need during the most fierce of battles. It is that rest that is sought by those struggling with addictions, broken marriages, shattered dreams, crushed hopes and wounded hearts. It is that rest that Jesus offers to us every day and even days like this.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3, 4 NIV)