On death, living and the in-between places…


She’s gone. Just like that, my mom went from having breast cancer to gone. January 2015 will forever be a season to remember. A season of mourning. In the blink of an eye it happened. Before I could catch my breath I went from trying to remember it was now 2015 and actually writing the correct year to flying to Mississippi to then planning a funeral. Oh the tears. The heartache. The disbelief. The shock. It was overwhelming.

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I’ve pondered over and over how to write things down about this season. To capture how I felt. How I feel now. I’ve lamented this seemingly forgotten blog of mine that seems lost in the shuffle; almost like something I did a lifetime ago before there was death and dying screaming at me….before my sister and I were thrown into the world of making terminal care decisions for our mom. Before life seemed to stop.
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This chalkboard canvas was newish to our home last year. I decided to put this verse on it at the time because I wanted my 7 & 5 year olds to memorize a good but easy Scripture. I was about to embark on a journey of homeschooling and wanted something visual to help us along.

These words are the theme of this year….they were constantly ringing in my head as I plowed along on that lonely road of grief at the beginning of the year. God, in his infinite wisdom, knew that I would need this truth embedded in my heart…woven into the fibers of my being. I am so thankful for this truth, both then and now.

There are things I want to write down. A bearing of the soul, of sorts. Memories I never want to forget. People who shared things with me at very perfect times that really lifted my soul and encouraged my heart. God moved in some amazing ways. Ever present no matter what I do, I felt Him there. He used his people to reach into my broken places and keep my eyes on His truth.

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And as the last 7 months have soared by, I have missed my mom, but I have embraced the ways God has grown me through the heartache and through the grief. It’s reforged my sister and my friendship and our own silly, quirky sisterhood. I am so unbelievably thankful for her and our time of crying, laughing and almost starting a chimney fire!

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I think of my sweet memories along the way as moments in which God breathed new life into me. The community I have is beautiful. Really. It’s remarkable. People (some of whom are reading this) shared things with me or had conversations with me that were filled with truth and love and empathy. Past clients, friends I’ve lost touch with, current friends, college friends, high school friends, parents of my high school friends, my amazing church family, mom friends from my now-Pennsylvania homestead, family from across the miles…

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The pastor/friend who texted me days after my mom passed away (as he was about to say goodbye to his)

May Christ be real to you this day, sister….He binds up the wounds of the brokenhearted.

The 40+ private message I received and probably just as many text message and phone calls from friends letting me know they were praying for me and my family and sharing scripture with me.

My sweet cousin who called me when she heard and then traveled hundreds of miles to say goodbye to mom and the laughs and hugs and tears and space we shared over several days.
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No picture of this one but me, out of my mind with grief and fatigue and having back pains, doing push-ups and planks in the hallway of the hospital halls and my sweet friend and high school Young Life leader who called and saved me from my embarrassing planking to tell me she’s thinking of me and praying for me and my sister.

My sister and I waltzing into the small town Mississippi hospital with bags upon bags of groceries and toiletries from Walmart as if we had moved right in….laughing in hysterics about how ridiculous we were…
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The friend who wrote a song about grief and God’s total goodness…who sends you the lyrics because she thought of you and the dying and the tears you were enduring…and she thought it would encourage your heart….and it did as the tears streamed down your face…

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That day of errand running after everyone had gone back home and I’m still 1,000 miles away from my husband and children….and my to-do list is long and distinguished….and I stop to get Chick-Fil-A and that amazing song came on the radio and I find myself sitting in the car with tears listening….

When I walk through deep waters
I know that You will be with me
When I’m standing in the fire
I will not be overcome
Through the valley of the shadow
I will not fear

I am not alone
I am not alone
You will go before me
You will never leave me

In the midst of deep sorrow
I see Your light is breaking through
The dark of night will not overtake me
I am pressing into You
Lord, You fight my every battle
And I will not fear

You amaze me
Redeem me
You call me as Your own

You’re my strength
You’re my defender
You’re my refuge in the storm
Through these trials
You’ve always been faithful
You bring healing to my soul

Coming home in the middle of winter after 3 weeks of being far, far away finding these 2 amazing kids ready with love notes, and hugs, and kisses. And somehow life resumes and everything is how it was…yet it’s forever different…image

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Surviving the great purge of everything your mom owned in the world by snapping photos like this with your sister, who is just as devastated as you are that you are actually dividing things up and packing everything into a moving truck…

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Attending a women’s conference with a dear friend a few months later and realizing….”these people don’t know that my mom just died….” And hearing stories about loss and God’s redemption in the midst of tragedy and heartache and realizing this was the perfect place for me to be with my tears and my aching heart. And receiving a necklace as part of our welcome package for the overnight conference with I Corinthians 15:19 etched on the back that says “By the grace of God, I am what I am.” and what an encouragement that was for you. Thanks Sarah Mae!

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Saying goodbye to your mom over a span of 6 days. Making the difficult decision to start hospice care and wondering if you have just made the biggest mistake ever…

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Sharing a twin air mattress in a hospital room closet (which was our home for 6 days) with your amazing and thankfully skinny sister…

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That moment when you have just been told that your mom has days left on this earth and your dad and step-mom call and tell you they are getting on a plane and coming to you….and then that moment at 2AM when they walk through the door of the hospital room and you are BEYOND relieved to see familiar faces who love you no matter what and can hug you and cry with you as long as you needed it….image

Those family members and friends who traveled a crazy distance to be with you and help you say goodbye….and this special friend who my mom LOVED and who loved my mom….she came 1,000 miles and stayed with mom’s neighbors and made herself available to help with whatever and the fun we had driving around and crying together…

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That moment in the hospital room that you just had to get out and run and the friends and family told you to step away for as long as you needed it….and when you came back you sat downstairs in the lobby area trying to figure out if this was real or a dream…

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Your amazing husband who not only picked up the slack at home (which included homeschooling a 2nd grader) but also called and texted and encouraged from afar. And then he made the long trek from Pennsylvania to Miississippi with 2 squirrely kids (ages 5 and 7)….Who helped you proofread your obituary, write your eulogy, and single-handedly designed the program for the funeral among many, many other tasks.

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Your awesome friends and neighbors who made meals for your family back home in Pennsylvania while you were away…Who also watched your kids for hours, who carpooled and picked up and helped in countless ways….My memory there is that my husband and kids were fed and cared for!

The drive back from Mississippi to Virginia in your mom’s car with your sister who is just as nutty as you….

image image imageThat first day back to work feeling weird that life has resumed again…
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That trip back to Mississippi to settle on mom’s house and waking up to this view and staying with these awesome friends. Friends you didn’t know 6 months ago and who have now become so dear and so close to you…

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The man of the hour….mom’s good friend who helped coordinate EVERYTHING while you were grieving. The man with the connections without whom I think we’d still be tying up loose ends!

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Going to the grave site and seeing the tombstone for the first time and realizing (for the 1000th time) she really is gone from this earth…
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Remembering how much she loved the man you chose as your husband and how awesome that was….Remembering how she would call him about all kinds of DIY projects. She respected him and she loved him.

imageRemembering the silly moments in the midst of the sadness…like when your sister tried to coach your daughter on the best way to give a leg massage…

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The last photo I ever took with my mom. We were in New Orleans together having fun and laughing….

imageAnd here I have been in these broken places. Some days trying to get by without the tears ruining my make-up and other days embracing that God’s timing of taking us away from this earth is perfect and it happens as it should.

These days I hug my kids more. I spend more time with them and less time fixing and cleaning. I hug my husband more. I have NO idea when my time will be up but my mom’s passing sure has brought the reality of my frailty and my sinfulness and my humanity to the light. I am a vapor that is here today and gone tomorrow. May my life bring glory and honor to the One who made me and who called me and has provided everything for me. May the resources He’s given me be offered back to Him as fragrant offerings, however small they feel, from grateful hearts who deserve not one bit of it. Thankful for my friends and my family that He uses to keep my heart focused on heavenly things….

This is what it’s been like to dwell in the in-between places…

4 Comments on “On death, living and the in-between places…

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