Category Archives: Loss

We Said “Good-bye For Now”

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My aunt’s health had been steadily failing over the last several years, but she made it four days past her 84th birthday before graduating to heaven.  She was my mother’s older sister by ten years.  Her husband passed away thirty years ago.  They had seven children and loads of grand, great and great-great grandchildren.  Her life was full and despite facing many tremendous obstacles, she persevered.  Due to an eye disease, she began going blind over forty years ago.  She lived independently in her own home up to the very end.

If her life was consolidated into the title of a book, I’d have to entitle it Tenacity, for she never gave up!  Her faith in God was the source of the great hope she clung to.  Psalm 23 was her favorite passage of the Bible.  It’s mine too.

As the family gathered at the funeral home for the private viewing, a slideshow of old pictures was running.  There were many special ones, particularly those that included my mother many years ago.  You see, my mother has been gone for 21 years now and I miss her bright smile and enveloping hugs.  It seems like a lifetime ago since I heard her joyful laughter.  Oh, what a reunion we will have one day …

As my aunt lie in the teal coffin with gold seashell adornment, I was struck by the fact that she looked nothing like herself.  But we know that the flesh we wear on this earth is temporary anyway.  For now, she has entered into her rest.

So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.  O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?  The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.”  ~ I Corinthians 15

The small Methodist church was packed with friends and family to say good-bye one last time this side of glory.  She would’ve been so glad to see such a nice gathering and so many beautiful floral arrangements.  Some had a ribbon across with the word – “Mother” or “Grandmother”, one was a floral arrangement of an open Bible with “Psalm 23” on a ribbon.  Clearly, she meant a great deal to many.

The minister shared a number of Scriptures and words of comfort, a great solace to all of us, in a quiet cadence.  We sang two hymns.  One, I must admit, I’d never heard of before – “Lord, Build Me a Cabin in Glory” and “I’ll Fly Away”.  I held it together through most of the funeral service, but when the organist played “Amazing Grace” at the end as we were leaving, I thought I would come undone.

My sister and I rode with one of our cousins to the cemetery for the interment.  The minister’s remarks and prayer again were very peaceful and I so appreciated the Scriptures he read.  There’s nothing like the calm of the Word of God.  Friends extended their condolences to the immediate family and, slowly, most of the crowd dissipated.  My sister and I walked around to see if we spotted the floral arrangement our family sent when I really thought I’d lose it then!  The trappings and overlay of the casket, etc. were spread over top of part of my mother’s grave, but the part that struck me was the large stake that was holding up the green funeral canopy.  The large stake was directly over top of my mother’s grave and it just seemed disrespectful and a very upsetting visual.  Their graves are side by side in a family plot.  There was not much that could’ve been done to ease the situation, perhaps.  I’m sure not a lot of thought went into the placement of the stake, but it was incredibly difficult for me to see.

Another cousin handed my sister and I a red rose from the casket spray as a keepsake, which was very nice.  The casket spray was huge with red and white roses and greenery, just lovely.  My aunt lived on an island most of her life, thus the seashell embellishment on the teal casket.  Very fitting and beautiful.

Throughout the day, my sister and I had the opportunity to speak with a number of cousins and catch up a little with them.  Some we hadn’t seen for many years.  I always appreciate when some of our older cousins share old stories of our mother.  It’s nice that they not only have such fond memories of her, but care enough to share them with us as well.  Since my mother was the baby of her family, her nieces and nephews were somewhat close in age to her.

There’s nothing like family.  Cherish those around you, for life travels at the speed of light the older one gets, it seems.  We can mistakenly think things will always remain the same, and then we blink, and realize how much has changed.

Reach out to distant family members.  Hug those kids.  Tell everyone you love them.  That God loves them.  That’s the stuff life is made up of.

There’s enough negativity and junk this world offers up.  We can focus on that or we can set our sights on the things that truly matter.  Like the bumper sticker says, “The most important things in life aren’t things at all.”  True enough.  It’s all about people, people who God has placed in our lives as family or friends.  We tend to take so much for granted when nothing is guaranteed.

Hug a little tighter.  Laugh louder.  Dance in the street.  Call an old friend.

Life is all about the little things.  For, in the end, they’re really the BIG things.

 

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Prepare a Will … Protect Your Loved Ones

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We all plan to live to see 99, but sometimes “The best laid plans of mice and men” don’t pan out. (quote by Robert Burns)  They say there are two certainties in life:  death and taxes.  True enough.

Some may subconsciously think that if they draw up a will, the unthinkable may happen, which is silly, of course.  It’s right up there with, “If I visit the doctor, he’ll find something wrong with me.”

To everything there is a season.  (Ecclesiastes 3)

I’m not a financial planner nor do I sell life insurance, but I have seen firsthand the importance of preparing a will and purchasing life insurance.  My mother died suddenly at the young age of 53 without either.  Fortunately, most of  my parent’s accounts were joint, so the financial impact wasn’t as devastating as it could have been.  However, she was the primary breadwinner of the family as my father had retired on disability years before, and her loss presented an unexpected financial burden.  In the months following her death, the four of us children pitched in to assist our grieving father with his heavy financial load.  I’m confident that our devoted mother never intended to create such a hardship on the rest of our family.  She loved us more than anything in this world.  It’s just one of those things that slipped through the cracks of financial planning.

It is my hope that this little reminder to prepare a will and purchase life insurance will help another family avoid unexpected financial strain.  If you have children under 18, it is vital to designate a guardian for them in your will as well.

Every state has different laws regarding having the will notarized or merely signed by two witnesses.  Research the applicable laws in your state.  An awesome resource is:

http://www.legalzoom.com/legal-wills/wills-overview.html

Another important document to prepare is a living will, which is an advance directive regarding medical care and life support.  Having this in place lets your family and doctors know of your wishes, and relieves them of making very difficult decisions in the future.

Here’s a link for a plethora of information on wills and estate planning:

http://wills.about.com/od/fiveessentialdocuments/

My husband and I recently updated our will and had it notarized at our bank.  The bank manager came in to speak with us and said how wonderful it was that we were taking care of this.  She mentioned that she and her husband needed to do this as well.  I thought that was ironic since she works in the financial industry.  This just illustrates how very intelligent and well-intentioned folks can overlook this important matter or procrastinate, thinking it’s not urgent.

May I urge you to make this a priority if you haven’t already done so?

Lastly, I would like to suggest establishing a “Legacy Drawer“.  Dave Ramsey talks about it here:

http://www.daveramsey.com/article/legacy-drawer-keep-your-family-prepared/lifeandmoney_relationshipsandmoney/

In a nutshell, it means writing down (or typing up) all pertinent financial information so your spouse or family members will easily be able to access accounts in the event of death.  Often times, one spouse handles the bills, retirement accounts or insurance.  Clearly maintaining account numbers, pin numbers, passwords, etc. in one place will simplify matters immensely for the surviving spouse or other family members.  Of course, it’s a prudent idea to store such documents in a safe.

Estate planning is not just for the wealthy nor for the elderly.  It’s for everyone.  It’s about leaving a legacy from one generation to the next.  About passing down love, hope and blessing to those we hold most dear.

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Three Things My Mother’s Death Taught Me

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On an October Monday morning twenty years ago, my mother slipped into heaven’s gates after fighting a valiant battle with breast cancer.  She was the strongest woman I’ve ever known and in our twenty-three years together, she taught me countless lessons that would last a lifetime.

There was little warning of her imminent death.  She was diagnosed with cancer in February, endured chemotherapy and radiation, and died in October.  It was all so sudden, but these lessons remain:

  1. Life is short.

We tend to think that our fleshly existence will last forever, especially when we’re young.  As we age a bit, the reality becomes far more clear.  The years fly faster and faster.  But, I was struck with this realization early on in my life when the rock of our family passed on.  I learned not to take any aspect of reality for granted because this life is temporary.  Eternity is far longer.

2.   Embrace every day.

I’ve learned to enjoy the simple things in life, for they are really the important things.  Love your family, hug them, tell them of your love and devotion.  We do not know the length of our days.  Live them to the full!  Dare to reach for your life’s goals.  There’s nothing worse than not trying.  Risk it.  Life is worth it!

3.  Legacy.

Outside of any accomplishment my life may produce, my greatest legacy is my three children.  It is through them, future generations will be born, and, so, it is in them, my greatest investment remains.  I will speak words of affirmation.  I will hug and let there be no doubt,ever, they each have captured my heart from the very beginning.  I will be interested in their lives and vocations.  Most of all, I will pray for them daily.  I will pray that they love Jesus with their whole hearts and walk with Him every day.  I will pray that God blesses them (and their future spouses) and guides them always.

    I would never have chosen to walk the path of living many more years without my mother than with her.  She was the most loving and giving example of Christ’s love.  Rather than focus on questions that yield no answers this side of heaven, I choose to dwell on her godly character, lessons I’ve drawn from her example and the hope that I have in my heart of spending eternity with her in heaven. That is the great hope of every believer, that we will spend forever with Jesus and other believers.  Yes, the ache of loss still burns in my heart.  How I miss my mother’s embrace, her bright smile and her laughter!  She loved to laugh.  She had the true joy of the Lord in her heart and wasn’t afraid to share it with those around her.   

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“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

~ I John 1:9

“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again.”                                                                                              ~ John 3:16-17  MSG

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