Tag Archives: grief

A Simple Piece of Cloth

It’s just a simple piece of cloth folded into a triangle. And yet, as I watched the representatives from the military unfold the American flag, it was so much more than a piece of cloth. Unfolded, held firmly, crisply, by its four corners and tilted it so we could see the stars and stripes. Our flag, held up in honor and memory of one who had served in the Army during the Korean conflict.

flag-at-cemetery

You may remember me telling you that Ed’s dad died at the end of September. We had a memorial service a few days later, but his ashes weren’t ready yet. Today, we buried my father-in-law next to his wife, right where he wanted to be.

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As I drove him to one of his radiation treatments, we talked about his wife, Virginia. He said he was going to ask her, when he saw her in heaven, if they had a good marriage. I told him that she would say yes. She was a wonderful mother-in-law, and I always wished I had the chance to know her more.

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The service at the graveside was short. There were tears and also smiles. We felt we had already said goodbye to a good man, and yet we were honoring him again today for serving his country.

That simple piece of cloth was folded up again, precisely, into a neat triangle. It was presented to my sister-in-law with words acknowledging her father’s service to our country.

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Sometimes I still…

…check on my children when they are sleeping. It used to be that I had to creep quietly into my little girls’ rooms at night to check on them before I could go to bed. If I forgot, I would lie in bed and worry about them until I got out of bed, quietly tip-toed into their rooms, and made sure they were still breathing.

Now that Lily and Emmy are older, I don’t check on them as often as I used to. But tonight, Emmy was coughing a lot, so I checked on her to make sure she had fallen asleep and was resting well. I also checked on Lily, because I can’t check on one daughter without checking on the other. Lily, however, now that she is older, has more trouble falling asleep and said, “What?” when I crept by her bed. “I’m just checking on you,” I said. She is used to me, and barely opened her eyes.

I was an exhausted mommy!
Lily and Emmy sleeping on me!

How old will they have to be for me to stop checking on them? I suppose I’ll always want to, although when they are teenagers they might not want me to come into their rooms. My mom used to say that she was the happiest when all four of us children were under her roof, even when we were adults. I was 40 when she died, and she still wanted all four of us to be with her.

Thanksgiving week is a difficult week for us. Mom died early on Monday morning, November 23, and we had to wait until after Thanksgiving to have her funeral. A couple of church families provided our Thanksgiving dinner that year. We were so grateful to them. We didn’t have the energy or the motivation to prepare a turkey…or mashed potatoes, or anything else!

I am now closer to 50 than to 40 years old. Sometimes I still…miss my mother. I suppose I always will.

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Telling My Children

Lily and Emmy knew their grandpa, Ed’s dad, was very sick. During the summer, they went with me to take him to his infusion. He was trying a new treatment that was supposed to use his immune system to help fight lung cancer. The grandpa that shuffled slowly down the hallway using a walker was not the grandpa they had known just a few months ago; the grandpa that played with them and made them laugh.

One day at the end of September, I had to wait until both of them came home. I had gotten the call while I was on the treadmill at the gym. Ed told me to go ahead and talk to them. He would see them later that day. My children come home from school at different times. Emmy goes to the elementary school and Lily goes to middle school, and with their school day and extracurricular activities, they never walk in the door at the same time. I waited until they were both home, sat with them, and told them something extremely difficult. Their beloved grandfather had died that afternoon. The tears flowed as I tightly hugged both of them before we headed to the hospital to meet Ed and his sister.

Telling your children that someone they love has died is never easy. Years ago, when Ed’s mom and then my mom passed away, they were so young. Lily was five, and she asked me so many questions about death. She was so curious about what it all meant. It was hard for me to talk about it without crying, but I did. I wanted to be open about death and about grief. Emmy was practically a baby and doesn’t remember her grandmas, so Ed and I fill in the details by telling stories about both of them.

Lily and Emmy are both old enough now that they will remember their grandpa. They understand death a little bit better now. But that didn’t keep my heart from aching when there was an empty chair at Lily birthday party last week.

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Three Weddings and a Funeral

Some of you will remember that fun movie with Hugh Grant and Andie MacDowell, Four Weddings and a Funeral. What I meant to say is that the weddings were fun, but throughout the whole movie, I kept wondering–who was going to die?

The first family wedding we were invited to this year actually took place inside Busch Stadium in St. Louis, where the Cardinals play baseball. The bride and groom are both (obviously) big Cardinal fans. Ed went to the wedding to represent our family, and he made sure to wear a Cubs tie! I was looking forward to seeing the photos he took on his phone, but the best one was a picture of dinner–a bacon-wrapped hot dog! Fortunately, I’m friends with the bride on Facebook and was able to see some better wedding photos, including the one of the Cardinals’ mascot, Fredbird, dancing with the bride!

The second family wedding was in downtown Chicago at the Drake Hotel, and all four of us were able to attend. Lily and Emmy were so excited to see their cousins and to be included in such a formal occasion! The girls loved the white roses on their plates and the mints in the bathroom. I loved the matchboxes (which sounds weird until you read this post) and the live band. I think this photo sums up the excitement so well:

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And then, at the beginning of October, we had a funeral.

My father-in-law had always been such a healthy, energetic man, and after Ed’s mom died, he really pitched in to help with Lily and Emmy. They adored him. When he was diagnosed with lung cancer last year, he started to slow down. The last couple months of his life were such a struggle–and I am blessed that I was able to help him just a little bit through his cancer treatments. It is never easy to see someone you love die, especially when you are also relieved that all the suffering that cancer brings is over. Grandpa Bill is now at peace with Jesus, and that brings us comfort.

We held a memorial service for Ed’s dad on the first Saturday in October, and then that Sunday, I got a phone call. My 57 year old cousin had suddenly had a massive heart attack and died. I was unable to travel to Arizona for his funeral, although I really wanted to be there.

Grief for my father-in-law and my cousin wore me down, and so the third wedding in the middle of October came as a relief. I was so looking forward to celebrating with the happy couple. And I was also looking forward to spending time with Ed! We headed downtown a little earlier for the reception than we needed to and wandered along the lakefront.

Ed and Ginny

As we were walking to the reception, we stumbled on the Caldwell Lily Pool near the Lincoln Park Zoo. I had never even heard of it before! It was a beautiful place to wander around, especially in the fall. We were soon on our way to the wedding reception, which was also a beautiful event.

Caldwell Lily Pool

So there you have it. Three weddings and a funeral.

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To Feel Joy Again

This weekend, many of us have had difficulties feeling joy. The school shooting in Newtown has shocked the country, and we mourn for the loss of so many children and adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Today is the Third Sunday in Advent, when we celebrate Joy. I wrote this post last year at this time, and I am posting it again. Hopefully it will help give you a glimpse of Joy and Hope that we all need right now.

I’ve been thinking a lot about joy lately. It began when I asked my dad a question about our Advent wreath. I couldn’t remember when we were supposed to light the pink candle…was it the third week in Advent? Dad confirmed that I was right, but then he told me why the third week is pink. “Look at the lessons for the third Sunday in Advent,” he said. “You’ll see that they are about rejoicing.” Sure enough, as I looked up this week’s Bible verses in my trusty old hymnal, I found this one: “The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy.” Isaiah 35:1-2 And so for the third week in Advent, we are lighting our pink candle.

Pink. Pink is the favorite color of many little girls, including Emmy. Pink is so loved that the children’s book Pinkalicious was a best seller and the basis for a kid’s musical and more books. “Pink is perfect,” the little girl declares.

Thinking about pink and the joyful feeling it brings, I remembered the saying “through rose-colored glasses.” Why rose glasses? While there are many different theories on where this phrase comes from, wiseGEEK writes that one of them actually comes from the use of rose petals:

Another theory concerns early mapmakers and their special corrective lenses. Because map making required a great deal of attention to detail, mapmakers needed to keep the lenses of their eyeglasses especially clean and scratch-free. It is believed by some that these mapmakers would use rose petals to clean any dust or other contaminants from their lenses. The rose petal’s natural oils would protect the lenses, but often left a rose-colored stain. Therefore, viewing the world through rose-colored glasses would be the equivalent of focusing all of one’s attention on the smallest details and ignoring the realities of the larger world around him or her.

Does ignoring reality bring us joy? That’s an interesting thought. It’s definitely more of a challenge to feel joy when we see the reality of life around us. The holiday season is joyful, but it can also be depressing and hard to see joy for some who have suffered a great loss. There have been times when I have burst into tears in the past week. Just decorating the Christmas tree was hard. My daughters each have a collection of Lenox ornaments from their grandma, and they are Lily and Emmy’s favorite ornaments. Emmy asked me why she only had two ornaments, and I barely choked out the answer. (Last year I looked for ornaments in their collections, hoping to continue the tradition, but I couldn’t find them.) Knowing I am expected to celebrate one more Christmas without my mom has been difficult–joyless. And I am not alone in this joyless feeling; I think about it as I drive by the darkened house of a man and son who lost their wife and mom suddenly, at a young age, to a heart attack just last spring. I think about it when I sit next to my choir partner, who lost her mom the same year I did.

This reality thing is hard to ignore.

Third Advent candle

Every night, our family has a tradition. We have three purple candles and one pink candle in our Advent wreath, and each week we are able to light one more candle. On the third Sunday of Advent we were finally able to light our pink candle. Oh, the joy! Lily and Emmy were besides themselves over that little, pink candle. They sing our songs with such joy: “Hear us sing! News we bring! Jesus the Savior is born!” They want to dance; they want to sing; they want to lift up their voices! It is almost as if they are right there, at the manger’s side, rejoicing along with the angels and the shepherds!

These two little girls, who are by no means angels, are bringing the joy home.

I hope in your own lives, in your own way, you are able to find some joy!

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