A Healing Place

It’s Mother’s Day, and it has been an emotional day.

Grief is an unpredictable companion along life's journey.

We had a lovely day together as a family. The guys and the grandchildren fixed a scrumptious dinner for us, and we finished off the day with fresh strawberry shortcake.  But even as I celebrated with my daughter, Amy and her sweet family, I found myself thinking about how many


be sitting around our family's table. I wondered what this day would be like if Scott had not died. Especially today, I found myself longing to feel his hug one.more.time.

Yet, with this burden of grief, my heart finds comfort tonight in the imagery of Psalm 85:10.  There the psalmist speaks of a healing place where

“Mercy and Truth have met each other: Justice and Peace have kissed.”

Each element ~

truth, justice, mercy, and peace

~ brings perspective and potential for experiencing peace with loss.

For those who grieve,


is about


to remember and


to remember. Truth casts her eyes toward the past, remembers the way it was before the loss, and underscores the value of treasuring my relationship with Scott.


is about what can be done


to restore wholeness in my life and renew the relationship that has been forever changed by death. Justice looks at the present and recognizes the full weight of grief. I am so thankful the psalmist did not stop with Truth and Justice, but included Mercy and Peace.





look to the


and help me consider ~

How can I live without Scott in my life?
How can I transform my relationship with Scott from one of presence to one of memory?





gaze toward the future and what life



will be like

as a result of this loss.

I love the way John Paul Lederach writes about this imagery in his book,

The Journey Toward Reconciliation


For Truth without Mercy is blinding and raw; Mercy without Truth is a cover-up and superficial. Justice without Peace falls easily into cycles of bitterness and revenge; Peace without Justice is short-lived and benefits only the privileged or the victors.

As another Mother's Day comes to a close, I recognize that along my journey of grief some days will be harder than others. Some days will scream for




. I am also aware that there is a healing place where the reality of my loss is embraced by


and transformed by



And for that, I am ever so grateful.

Sunday's Coming

I think it was

Tony Campolo

who first coined the phrase,

It's Friday, but Sunday's coming!

Those five words truly capture the


of this Easter season. Holy Week begins on Palm Sunday with Jesus exalted as he rides through Jerusalem only to find his body buried in a tomb on Holy Saturday.

And in between, Mary watches her son beaten and scorned, nailed to a cross.

Jesus sees his mother's grief from the cross and speaks to her loss ~

“Woman, behold, your son!" Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.

~ John 19:26, 27

It's Friday, but Sunday's coming


Mary and the others who find the tomb empty and realizes the fulfillment of Scripture and the hope of resurrection.

It's Friday, but Sunday's coming

truly resonates with my soul.  As a mother who has laid her


in the arms of God, I have known


  I grieve the loss of a child almost daily in my thoughts of



Yes, life in His Kingdom is full of contrasts.

Those who mourn are comforted.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.~ Matthew 5:4

Those who grieve have hope.

Dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died.~ 1 Thessalonians 4:13, 14

Those who die in Christ are truly alive.

For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.~ 2 Corinthians 5:4

Many of us have known


and we long for



One of our local pastor's truly captured the heartache of Holy Saturday and the hope of Easter ~

Holy Saturday is really like the world we live in ~ it's the in-between day . . . We believe in the Resurrection and we know it is coming, but we patiently wait as we grieve, knowing His promise will be fulfilled. ~ Pastor Gregory Beaumont

Jesus said ~

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.~ John 16:33

This life is full of


but do not lose heart because

Sunday's coming!


Jesus Taken Down From the Cross

, Michael O'Brien

Happy Birthday, Scott

Tomorrow ~

November 23rd

~ is Scott’s birthday. He would be 30 years old.

To be perfectly honest, while I rest in the assurance of where he


, I wrestle with the reality that he

is not here


Tonight, my heart cries out for Scott to be present in our lives. My ears long to hear his voice. My arms ache to hug him.

I struggle to envision what he might look like, all grown up. I can only see him as he was ~ a fair-haired, freckle-faced teenager . . . with a contagious laugh and smile! I remember one of the first things our grief counselor told us in those early days after Scott’s accident ~

You will forever be the parents of sixteen year old boy.

I did not understand it then, but I know it all too well now.

I have been on this journey of grief long enough to know that I really cannot fight the emotions, or bury the sorrows. So today, I surrendered to my grief. I allowed the tears to come to the surface. What deep wisdom is contained in Jesus’ words in Matthew 5 ~

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

In anticipation of Scott’s birthday, Tony and I drove to one of our favorite local nurseries this afternoon. We thoughtfully selected new plants to add color and life to Scott’s memorial garden in our side yard.

Amy and our grandchildren ~ Kaitlyn, Kyle and Jack ~ will join us in Uncle Scott’s Garden tomorrow. We will prune back the perennials and place in the soil each new sign of life. Our work will be a labor of love as we strive to not lose heart. As we toil to bring beauty to what is seen, we long to bring into focus what is unseen, what is eternal.

In this small way we celebrate the life of our precious Scott and give thanks for the sixteen years we had with him. All the while, we cling to the hope of our blessed reunion when there will be no more sorrow, no more tears, and no more goodbyes.

Happy Birthday, Scott ~

I love you


Christmas Present

This past December 2007, as Andy sat before the computer to compose their Christmas letter, tears were all he could produce. Andy and Stephanie hoped to announce the wonderful news that they were expecting their first child. But two years of infertility and a miscarriage finally wore their spirits thin. Tears were all they had . . . and who sends tears at Christmas?

Andy and Stephanie knew the Babe of Bethlehem came to earth to bring salvation, yet the joy of Christmas was dampened by their sorrow. They worshiped Him as King of Kings. But their grief was great. Their hearts were heavy.

Trusting God with their grief, Andy and Stephanie began to accept the fact that they may not produce children of their own, and they began to work with an adoption agency. There were questionnaires to complete, interviews to go through, and classes to learn about how to be adoptive parents. Then, the morning after they completed a weekend parenting seminar on adoption, Andy and Stephanie were surprised by a positive pregnancy test!

Once again, they had conceived! But like others who live with the burden of infertility, their joy was mixed with the reality that another miscarriage may occur. Again, they waited on the Lord.


Christmas Present

is here, as Andy sits before the computer this December 2008, he has magnificent news to share. The Lord has given them a precious daughter, Annaliese Joy, who came into their world on November 18th. In their Christmas letter, Andy writes, “She is beautiful like her mother and each day we both fall more madly in love with her. I can better imagine now the love the Father must have for us as His children.”

I am privileged to know Andy and Stephanie as friends. I am grateful for their willingness to be transparent in their pain and sorrow. Although they cried many tears, and their empty arms at Christmas, 2007 was a very difficult time, they never lost the perspective of a loving heavenly Father who sent his Son to earth over 2000 years ago.

In their sorrow, Andy and Stephanie turned to this Wonderful Counselor, the Prince of Peace, to carry their burden, to restore their joy, and to increase their faith. What God taught them about His promises could not have been learned except in the depths of their need. And the beauty of redemption is that it truly sets one free to restore the future, to be transformed rather than destroyed by the pain of the past.

This story of Christmas Present is not about

redeeming the future

because a precious daughter was born into their family. The birth of Annaliese does not take away the pain and grief of the life they lost through miscarriage and the sorrow of years of infertility. Andy and Stephanie began to redeem the future in the


of their grief. It was there, in the dark night of the soul, that the potential existed for this young couple to be destroyed by the loss of the dream of having children of their own. But Andy and Stephanie chose daily, in the midst of their pain, to be transformed along the way. By God’s grace and mercy, they chose to rest in the everlasting arms of God, to trust Him with the losses, and in the process, their lives continue to glorify God and draw others to His Kingdom.

That, my friends, is redeeming the future.

Revelation 21:3-5 promises: And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away." And He who sits on the throne said, "Behold, I am making all things new," and He said, "Write, for these words are faithful and true."

Welcome Annaliese Joy

Precious Gift of God

Christmases Past

I keep our Christmas decorations in narrow plastic bins under our bed. We always pull the dust covered containers out from under the bed in the days following Thanksgiving as we anticipate the coming of Christmas. I remember when Amy and Scott were little - the excitement of opening those bins each year and their joy as they placed the decorations around the house and on the tree.

I vividly remember Christmas, 1995. Amy was in her first year of college at Biola in southern California. Scott was a sophomore at Immanuel High School in Reedley. As was our tradition, we went out to a local Christmas tree farm, and cut down the


tree. Scott wanted to begin decorating the tree immediately. I told him that we were going to wait for Amy to arrive home from college before we decorate the tree. I remember saying, "We will always wait until we are all together to decorate the tree." And we did.

That was December, 1995. In six short weeks, February 1996, Scott was killed in an accident. As December 1996 rolled around, my words from Christmas past rang in my ears -

"We will always wait until we are all together to decorate the tree."

I could not buy a tree for Christmas. I could not pull the bins out from under the bed. I could not feel the joy of the season.

For ten painful years we did not buy a Christmas tree. We did not decorate the house for Christmas. Although we celebrated the holiday in the homes of friends and family, exchanging gifts and sharing meals, I could not bring myself to touch the ornaments Scott had touched his last Christmas on earth. I could not decorate a tree when our family would never be


again this side of eternity.

I remember thinking, "How long will I go on like this?"

In a feeble attempt to conquer the pain, we decided to try a


Christmas tree farm, and we actually purchased a tree for Christmas in 2005 - ten years since the tree we decorated all together. We bravely brought it home, but that was as far as my courage could take me. The tree remained outside, leaning against the side of the garage.

Christmas 2006 again found us able to purchase a tree for our home. We again bravely brought it home. This time, we placed the tree in the stand, and stood it in its rightful place beside the fireplace in our family room. But, sadly, there it stood; we never decorated it. It just stood there throughout the Christmas season; its bare, empty branches a metaphor for my heart. It was Christmas, but something . . .


. . . was so obviously missing.

Then last year, we purchased one of those


trees, only about four feet tall, that already has lights attached to it. We set it up in its rightful place and I slid the bins out from under our bed. As I opened each bin, I was hit with waves of emotions that brought all the pain and sorrow of losing Scott right back to me. There were the ornaments celebrating his early years. There were the precious trinkets he had made in school. There was the box of


, what Scott called our breakable ornaments when he was little. I pulled out a few items for my grandchildren to hang on the tree and slid the bins back under the bed.

Well, Christmas has come again. This year we decided to have a few friends over to celebrate the season with a Christmas brunch. It sounded like a good idea until I realized that I had set myself up to


to decorate. How could they come to my house and have it not look bleak for Christmas? Yet, how could I face my sorrows stored in those bins under the bed?

I asked Amy if she and the grandchildren could come over to help me. I pulled the bins out from under the bed. Almost immediately upon opening the bins there were once again, shouts of glee as my grandchildren spied some of the decorations for the first time. They joyfully decorated the house and stood back to admire their work. Yes, it was painful. Yes, it was difficult. But it was then that I realized I had to let go of the tight grip I held on my old traditions and embrace new ones . . . new traditions that would have been created even if Scott was still here.

I share my experiences with Christmases Past because Christmas can be one of the saddest times for those who have experienced loss.

If you are one of those who grieves the loss of a dear one, I hope my own experience can bring you some comfort. Everyone's grief is unique and you have the right to


your own journey. It took me ten years to begin to feel like I could face Christmas in a familiar fashion. And then it took another three years to come to the place in my heart where I was ready to create


traditions to build on the old ones. This Christmas, give yourself the gift of listening to your heart. Honor the memories of Christmases Past, take care of yourself this Christmas Present, and look forward to Christmas Future.

If you know someone who is having a hard time this Christmas, be present to their need. Do not hurry them to leave their grief behind. Do not ask them to experience Christmas through your eyes. Listen to their sorrow. Respect their reasoning. Honor the memories they hold dear. In so doing, you will companion them toward experiencing peace with loss.

For the very Babe of Bethlehem came to earth as the Prince of Peace, and He will reconcile all things to himself in time, and make all things beautiful. Happy Birthday, Jesus.

November Chill

Autumn . . . I have always loved Autumn . I suppose as a child this partiality came as I celebrated my birthday in November. But as childhood gave way to adulthood, I became aware of other reasons for my love of this season.

Autumn brings orange, red and yellow leaves which adorn the trees around us as the air begins to cool. I am ready for jeans and sweaters, scarves and gloves, and cups of hot coffee on chilly days. I even look forward to “falling back” an hour as the early darkness brings the family indoors for longer evenings together.

Autumn brings Thanksgiving which has long been my favorite holiday, with the aromas of cinnamon, nutmeg and pumpkin; the expressions of gratitude and contentment; and our home filled with love for family and friends.

But now, Autumn brings a chill to my inner soul. I sense with every fiber of my being that my emotional world is entering a cold, dark season of grief. Just as the temperatures outside fall and the hours of sunlight decrease, my heart begins to make changes as autumn envelopes my heart.

I still enjoy the brilliant colors in the orchards around our valley. I love to wear my jeans and sweaters. But as the fall days continue to accumulate and usher in November, I recognize the hole in our family and in my heart. (Read Scott’s story)

You see, we celebrated Scott’s birthday in November, too. He would be twenty-nine this year on the 23rd. And then comes Thanksgiving, when Scott is again undeniably missing. He loved to help cook and prepare for our celebration. I remember the year HE made the pies!

November gives way to December and the traditions surround our celebration of Christmas. And, it seems that every store I enter, every radio station I tune in, is playing that song . . . “I’ll be home for Christmas . . .” and it rips at my heart.

In six short weeks after Christmas, we remember the day Scott went home to be with the Lord. And then . . . even in the midst of winter, my heart begins to feel a thaw, a warmth that again there will be a spring.

“Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.” I Thessalonians 4:17

Scott's Story

The winter of 1996 will never be forgotten by two California families. One will remember with extreme joy; my family, with profound grief.

After receiving mushrooms that had been gathered in the hills near San Francisco in early February, 1996, a mother used the harvest in the family supper. Within hours of ingesting the mushrooms, she and her three children became extremely ill. Examination of the mushrooms revealed they were highly toxic. With massive doses of antibiotics, the woman and her two sons began to show improvement. But the 13-year-old daughter’s health rapidly deteriorated and her liver began to fail. She was placed on the emergency transplant list. Death was eminent.

At last, the family finally received news that a donor match was found for their daughter. That evening, the young girl underwent a transplant graft; one half of a healthy liver was attached to her failing liver. Within days, her liver regenerated, and she eventually made a complete recovery.

About two-hundred miles away, in Reedley, a small community in central California, on the morning of February 5th, my teenage son, Scott, made a grave mistake in the woodshop at his high school. An accomplished woodworker already at the young age of sixteen, he placed a wood file between a tool brace and the oak tabletop which was spinning on the face-plate of a lathe. The file jammed and the tabletop shattered. Pieces of oak became projectiles in the woodshop. One 14-inch piece of wood hit Scott directly in the face.

Our family was forced to contend with the realities of sudden death. After 30 hours on life support, Scott was declared brain dead. Our family made decisions we never could have imagined – to have our precious sixteen-year-old son became an organ donor.

On February 7th, Scott’s liver, heart, kidneys and pancreas were removed to be donated. That evening, a representative from the California Transplant and Donor Network told us some preliminary information regarding the value of of decision. Although no identifying information was given, the representative noted that Scott's liver went to a young girl in the San Francisco area, who was near death after ingesting poisonous mushrooms.

I will never forget the winter of 1996. I remember it with profound grief.

The evening of February 7th, just twenty-four hours after we said goodbye to our son, my husband and I lay awake; the late night news droned on in front our sleepless eyes. We watched as cameras focused on a helicopter landing on the roof of University Medical Center in San Francisco. Physicians stepped out with a small ice chest, and the news commentator said, “A liver match has been found for the young girl who ingested the poisonous mushrooms.” We watched with disbelief as our son’s liver was carried in that small ice chest to be transplanted into another human being.

After hours of surgery, the news carried the excitement of the girl’s father. “Our prayers have been answered.” My husband spoke the words that hung in our hearts, “And our prayers were not.”

Their family joyously celebrated the tremendous gift of life for their only daughter, only sister. Our family tearfully grieved the inconceivable loss of our only son, only brother.

In the days and weeks that followed Scott’s death, I had nowhere to turn except to my faith in God and His precious Word. It was there that I could take my tears and found that He keeps them all in a bottle (Psalm 56:8). It was there that I felt Him draw near to me as I was brokenhearted and crushed in spirit (Psalm 34:18).

I continue to carry this treasure of darkness (Isaiah 45:3) and ask God to show me how I can use my loss for His glory. It is my prayer that through this blog, Redeeming the Future, I can share some of the lessons I learn as I walk this journey of grief; that I can companion others who may feel lost; and that together we can discover pathways through difficult times.


Scott William Redfern
November 23, 1979 – February 6, 1996