When Holidays Are Holey Days

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How do you define holidays

Merriam-Webster defines it this way ...

hol-i-days noun \ˈhä-lə-ˌdāz\

  1. holy days
  2. days on which one is exempt from work
  3. days marked by a general suspension of work in commemoration of an event

For those who grieve, holidays can seem like holey-days.

holey-days adjective \ˈhō-lēˌdāz \

  1. days having holes

Holidays often feel like holey days  – days that remind us that there is, and always will be, a hole in our hearts and homes. A hole in the form of an empty chair, a missing member of the family, a feeling that life will never be "normal" again. A hole formed when a parent is no longer living, or a child is taken way too soon by a terminal illness or accident. Perhaps a hole created by a prodigal who has chosen to just walk away.

Regardless the reason for the hole, literature on death and grief tell us it is actually healing to acknowledge it. Jesus said ~Blessed are those who mourn [who feel the pain and express it], for they shall be comforted

These holey days can be a precious time to remember ~ to share stories, laughter and tears about the loved one who is no longer present with you. Holey days are a wonderful time to transform the relationship from one of presence to one of memory. For it has been said ~ memories are where the proof of life are stored.

I am very familiar with the emotions of holey days. I know the horror of brain death, and the conflicting emotions of signing papers to donate my sixteen year old son's organs to save the lives of strangers. I know the sorrow of having an estranged parent who chose to not be in my life for almost 10 years. I know there will always be times I wish I could call my mom.

I know how God has used all things to glorify Himself and draw others to His kingdom. I have seen how His hand move to bring value to my loss. And I know that I will one day see my loved ones and forever live with them in eternity.

But all the knowledge in the world does not change the fact that these special days, these holidays, often feel like holey days to my grieving heart. It is a time to give ourselves grace; to offer grace to those who grieve.

So I give myself permission to acknowledge the pain as I feel that weight of grief bearing down on me. I purposefully bring to mind the precious memories of each loved one, even though these memories may bring tears to my eyes and an aching in my heart. For this I know, memories are the proof that they will always be a part of us.

To speak the name of the dead is to make them live again.  –Egyptian Proverb

Clinging to Hope

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Bye Scott. I love you. See you at the game.

Bye Mom. Love you too.

I woke this morning with these words echoing in my head. Little did I know on that rushed morning in February 1996 that these words would be our last conversation. Just a little over four hours later,  Scott was airlifted to the regional trauma center, and sixteen short years became the length of his days.

Today begins a hallowed time for our family. Although sixteen years have passed, we remember every detail of these dark days with great clarity ~ as if it were yesterday.

Today I feel my grief in every cell of my body.

Today I long to hear Scott say just.one.more.time – Love you too.

Today I am reminded that no matter how dark and difficult the journey, the God of all Comfort has been my faithful companion. It is He who draws near to the brokenhearted and saves those crushed in spirit. It is He who replaces ashes with garlands and clothes me with a garment of praise. It is He who has placed eternity in my heart so I have a hope.

Today I cling to hope ~ hope that made it possible for me to take my first steps along this journey of grief. Hope that is rooted in the confidence that God will use my deep pain to glorify Himself and draw others to His Kingdom. Hope that promises to redeem the future.

Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense regardless of how it turns out. –Vaclav Havel

Grief's Grip ~ God's Grace

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Today I feel the grip of grief. No matter what I do, I cannot seem to escape its clutch upon my heart. And yet, my soul is not anxious to find a place far from this shadow of death. For it is truly in this dark place, in this wilderness of my soul, that I find God to be so near.

I am no stranger to grief's hold. I have known it now for fifteen years. And over this past decade and a half, I have come to realize that I must eventually surrender to my grief.

In one sense, I find myself asking this today ~ Has it really been 15 years? And then I hear my heart ask ~ Has it really been ONLY 15 years?

I recall so vividly that phone call, fifteen years ago this very hour. I remember the thirty hours of waiting with hope only to be forced to reconcile my heart to the horrific reality of brain death.

Yet, as I reflect on my journey of grief, I can truly say that I am grateful for God's unlimited provision of comfort, grace and peace. He has remained faithful to His Word ~

He keeps count of my tossings and put my tears in His bottle.
Psalm 56:8
He draws near to my broken heart and saves my crushed spirit.
Psalm 34:18
waited patiently for the Lord; He inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth,a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.
Psalm 40:1-3
How blessed I am when I mourn, for I will know God's comfort.
– 
Matthew 5:4

I can rejoice that He does not waste my sorrow. That through the things He has taught me along this path of sorrow, I can say of Scott, as the author of Hebrews said of Abel ~

Though he be dead, he still speaks.
Hebrews 11:4b

And if I can trust Him with this great loss, I can have confidence in His promise of reunion ~

But I do not want you to be uninformed, Bonnie, 
about those who are asleep, 
that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 
For since you believe that Jesus died and rose again, 
even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him 
those who have fallen asleep. 
For this I declare to you by a word from the Lord, 
that you who are alive, 
who are left until the coming of the Lord, 
will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 
For the Lord himself will descend from heaven 
with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, 
and with the sound of the trumpet of God. 
And the dead in Christ will rise first. 
Then you who are alive, who are left, 
will be caught up together with them ~ with Scott 
in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, 
and so we will always be with the Lord. 
Therefore encourage one another with these words.
– 
I Thess. 4:13-18

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Photo: Christ in Agony by Michael O'Brien

Happy Birthday, Scott

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Dear Scott,

Today is your birthday. I remember the day you came into this world on November 23, 1979.  I could never have imagined then that the day would come when I no longer had the joy of your presence in my life.

You would be thirty-one years old today, Scott. I wonder how you would look as a man. What would you be doing with your life? Who would have won your heart and be your wife? How many children would you have? Oh, how much I long to have you still be present in my life.

I remember a few weeks before you died, you came home from babysitting Ciera and Matthew Fry.  You sat down on the couch, put your hands behind your head, and with such an air of confidence, declared, I can't wait to be a Dad!

You loved to spend time with children ~ to play with them, share your faith with them, and teach them things you knew how to do. I remember another night about that same time when you babysat so Dayn and Kati could go out. Garon could not get to sleep that night. You told me you just sat next to him on his bed, rubbed his curly-haired head, and sang Alleluia, because  that is what helped you go to sleep when you were his age. You would have been a great Dad, Scott!

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You have been gone from us for almost fifteen long years. So many years to wait to see you again, and yet, so much time to cherish the memories of your short sixteen years of life. Memories are where the proof of life is stored.  I treasure my storehouse of Scott-memories. I thank God that you left so much proof of your relationship with Jesus Christ that we wait with an assurance and a hope that there will be a blessed reunion, we will see you again.

Your are loved and missed by not only Dad, Amy and I.  You are missed by Jeff.  The song he wrote ~ The Brother I've Yet to Meet ~ shares his desire to have known you and have you be a part of his life now.  Kaitlyn, Kyle and Jack miss you ~ we share our memories of you with them, and they love to hear and tell Scott stories.

Kaitlyn asked me yesterday, How old is Uncle Scott going to be tomorrow? I loved that she asked me in the present tense because although you are not physically part of our lives, you are forever part of our lives as we have transformed our relationship with you from one of presence to one of memory.  Kaitlyn knows with confidence that although your life on earth has ended, you are more alive today than ever in His presence.

Perhaps the words of the song by Mercy Me captures the content of my heart today ~ If home is where my heart is, than I'm out of place ... I've never been more homesick than now.

Happy Birthday, Scott.

Love,
Mom

Birthday Blooms

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Last November, for Scott's thirtieth birthday, we added a new plant to Scott's Memorial Garden in our backyard. When we went to the local nursery to make our selection, one of the things we wanted to be certain of was the hardiness of the plant.  Would it withstand the drop in temperatures as fall and winter settle into our valley?  We chose a Camellia Sasanqua with semi-double white flowers and ever-so-slight pink edges. It made a lovely addition in the corner of the garden.

It is November again. Scott's birthday is just a few days away. And fall has finally arrived over night with a wonderful gift of rain. I walked out into the garden this morning to see how the various plants had survived the downpour.

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There in the corner of the garden was Scott's birthday bush ~ covered with blooms, and many buds waiting to open! Little did I realize that this hardy plant was going to bloom each November (as I am really just a poser when it comes to gardening).

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What a wonderful surprise to know that every year on Scott's birthday we will have a display of flowers to say how very much Scott is loved and missed by us all. What a beautiful image as the chill of winter settles in that we have a blessed hope of a glorious reunion.