Monday, December 21, 2015

Christmas 2015

 We celebrated Christmas with the kids and grandkids on the 17th as James, Laura and Will are spending Christmas with Laura's family in Montana and Bill and I are spending Christmas in Iowa with my Mama and sisters. 
We had a good day. There were tears of course, because I cry a lot. But there was laughter and smiles, too. How can one not enjoy the antics of an 8 month old and a 15 month old! 
This was taken at our church a few weeks ago.

Just having the family together is the best gift of all. I don't need anything else! But of course my family likes to give presents to each other. 
Of all the  presents I received, the picture below was the most special to me. I never went out to Daddy's wood shop when I was home but my husband did. He saw this picture displayed above Daddy's desk. Somehow he was able to smuggle it home without me knowing it. I opened this gift,  read it, and burst into tears. When I read this to Daddy 11 years ago, I had no idea how special those words would be in the future to me. Daddy held my hand for many years as he helped me grow and I was able to clasp Daddy's hand when his life's work was complete. Because of the promise of Christ, our Heavenly Father, I will be able to clasp his hand again when my life's work is done here on this earth. No one knows how many years that will be, or even if it is months or days. My life and death is in God's hands.

My Daddy and Amy are having their first Christmas in heaven together. We will miss them here on earth, but cherish the memories we have of them. Emily found this picture of the two of them and this also is one of my treasures.

Many people read my blog in other parts of the world that I have never made an acquaintance with. I would like to thank you for taking an interest in my life and in Amy's story and how she has influenced so many people with her short life. I pray that you will be able to meet Amy in heaven some day. 

Merry Christmas from Amy's family to you and yours.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

One Last Christmas at the Farm

This was to be our last Christmas with Daddy. 
Instead it will be our last Christmas forever on the farm I grew up on.
Daddy had lived there for most of his 85 years. I only lived there for 14. We moved there when I was about 4 years old. But I don't really remember much about the first farm house we lived in, the house Daddy was born in. So why do my memories of my first 18 years seem to be half of my life when I have lived in my home with my husband for almost 40 years?  My childhood home is the place where I was taught everything that is important to me. It is where I was taught to love others and most of all to love the Lord. I was taught by word and by deed. My parents were wonderful examples to me as I was growing up. It is where my husband and then each new child as they came along spent many, many Christmases. It is where our family fled to, the Christmas after Amy died so we wouldn't have to spend it in our own home so full of her memories. It was my refuge. 
Daddy reading the Christmas story from Luke 2 a few years ago.
Mama is leaving before the new year and is going to live with my sister. The farm will be sold and before next Christmas there will be a new family starting memories in that house and on that land.

I am so glad I was able to spend almost 2 weeks there in June. Emily and I had taken a road trip and on the day before we left we  celebrated Daddy's 85th birthday. I didn't know it would be his last. Mama was not well. We were so worried about her. 

Then in early fall we got a call. Daddy had fallen, but seemed to be ok. It was then found out later he had a stroke. So that's when we decided we would spend Christmas in Iowa. Then in late October he had more tests done. The doctors thought maybe his gall bladder, then a test showed a mass so surgery was done on October 27th. I flew out on Nov. 2 to be with him for two help him and Mama in the hospital, to help get him settled back at home, to set up outside help for both of them at the farm, to do whatever I could to help we could come back and spend one last Christmas with him on the farm.
But doctors with all their training and experience still don't know what God has planned for a person's life.
Just two weeks later on the day I was to fly back home, Daddy was welcomed into heaven by his Savior and Amy. I'm sure she ran into her Granddaddy's arms and told him all about her mansion with all the rooms waiting for the rest of us that are still down here. Amy and Daddy are no longer in any pain from their earthly bodies. Amy has freedom from Rett Syndrome. Daddy has freedom from cancer and old age. 

Why, then, do I grieve so much?
Just a few short months ago, I felt like I had a handle on my grief. I was able put this scripture on my Oct. 9 blog from Psalm 30.

"Weeping may endure for a night,
But joy comes in the morning.
You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
You have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, 
To the end that my glory may sing praise to You and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever."
And then Daddy died. 

When I was in the hospital with Daddy I started writing down all the things that brought flashbacks of my time in the hospital with Amy. After only a day and a half I had filled a page in my book, so I stopped. Everything, it seemed, reminded me of her hospitalization and death. From the simplest of things (like the way they propped Daddy up with pillows) to the hard things--interviewing with hospice and dealing with all that leads to the end of life. And the worst possible of memories...funeral homes, funeral directors and well-meaning people who really don't know how to deal with death, all brought back to stark reality that Daddy was gone, just like Amy.

But God gave me the strength to endure those three weeks in November.  And then back home, where life has not changed for most people. Thanksgiving and all the Christmas preparations. Happiness, Excitement, Joy. But my life has, once again, been turned upside down. 

Happiness, excitement and joy seem to be eluding me. But I do have a peace. Deep in my heart even though I am in such pain at losing Daddy, I know God loves me. 
He gave me a special gift. 
Quite a few years ago, I was watering my plants in the sun room and was consumed with grief. Because of the great love I had for my earthly father, I pleaded and begged my heavenly Father to please let me be there when Daddy died, to be at his side when he left this world and entered eternity. I never really expected God to give me that desire of my heart. As I imagine most long married couples do, Mama and Daddy wanted to die together so I figured they would be in a car accident or some such thing that fits my Disney view of life. 
But God is not Walt Disney. He had His own perfect plan for Daddy's life and for mine. 
Daddy came home on a Friday. A hospital bed had been brought in and the living room had been rearranged to accommodate it as well as a bedside toilet and a walker. Even though Daddy was in a great amount of pain and was taking the strong meds to fight it, he was determined to sleep in his own bed and use the bathroom. This he did Friday and Saturday. He was doing great both of those days and we were able to talk together and when James, Laura, and little Will came Saturday evening he was awake enough to know them and talk to them. 
Sunday morning he took a turn for the worse. We don't exactly know what happened, but he went downhill fast. There were still times where he was lucid, but it was hard to understand him and he slept a lot. I spent time singing to him and reading to him from where he had stopped his daily readings. It was in the Psalms. 
Monday morning was really hard. I helped the girl that stayed that night fix up his bed and he was in so much  pain. His sister (my aunt) came and visited. Some folks from church came also. The hospice nurse finally came around noon and said we could increase his medications. My sister took my mom to an eye dr. appointment and another friend from church visited briefly. I sat with Daddy and read to him and then started singing. I was concentrating on the old hymns since I knew he liked them. I was using the hymnal I had brought from home that I sang to Amy out of. I had just sung, "Praise Him, Praise Him," when an elderly friend of Daddy's stopped by.  James, Laura, Will and I were all around Daddy's bed visiting with the friend when Daddy just stopped breathing. We were all waiting for the next breath and nothing happened. He just peacefully passed from this life to the next. I was holding his hand. 

As I was lying on Daddy's chest crying and crying, Laura told me later that little Will waved goodbye and then turned to the window and waved goodbye out the window for a little while. Could he see Jesus leading Daddy home? Was Amy with them?  Will was only 13 months old at the time. He will never be able to tell us. Only God knows.  

What a precious gift God gave me to be able to be with my Daddy as I had asked Him so many years ago. I know from what the Bible says that He loves me, but I knew right then that He had tangibly showed His love for me by giving me this desire of my heart. I will never forget that moment as long as I live. 

That was exactly one month ago today. 

Bill, little Marissa Amy, and I went to a Christmas party today at the center where Amy attended. We ate, sang Christmas songs, Santa came and handed out presents and we visited with the teachers and Amy's friends. My heart was heavy. It was hard to be there, but the people loved seeing Mari and she was so happy and good while we were there. And it just seemed right that today on this special day, we share with those who Amy spent time with on this earth.

I know my heart will heal, but it will take time. God will give me the strength to say goodbye to the farm. I will be able to spend time with my sisters and my Mama. People are what is important, not things, not a house or land. 

John 14 says
"Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.  In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.  And where I go you know, and the way you know.”
 Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?”
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me."

Monday, November 16, 2015


My father came home to his farm in Iowa on Friday after being in two different hospitals for three weeks. 
He is 85 years old and he is dying. We were first told he would still be with us at Christmas, then we were told Thanksgiving, this morning we were told he only has a few days at the most. Maybe even just a few hours. It is in God's hands.
He has been my hero even before I was old enough to know what a hero was.
He was a farmer for most of his life and he was an adventurer.
At 9 years old he helped his dad tear down an old church building and used the lumber to build the house on the farm; they finished the building and out buildings and moved to the new house in just three years. The house that he still lives in 71 years later... the home I grew up in. When he was 16 years old he went to Poland with a load of horses right after WWII. He was called a Seagoing Cowboy.  This was part of a humanitarian group that eventually became known as Heifer International.
He went to Korea for thirteen months when he was in the Marines and was sent there right after the Chosin Reservoir. That was the second bloodiest battle in the Korean War. He met my mom while at Camp Pendleton, they married and upon discharge moved  to Iowa to farm with my grandpa. Their were four daughters in the family. No boys to carry on the family name and to join him in farming. That always made me sad for him, but what a wonderful childhood I had! I knew I was loved, and that is the most important thing. Because of his love for me I had no difficulty believing in a loving Heavenly Father.
We took family vacations most every year. He enjoyed traveling and instilled in me a love of adventure also. He and Mama were able to travel to Europe (to visit his sister and family in the military), and free trips to Hawaii and a cruise to the Bahamas for being such a successful seed corn dealer after he retired from farming.
On a visit to our home  in 1999, Daddy said if we wanted he would help us put on an addition with a room on the first floor for Amy. We took him up on the offer in 2001 and he and my mom brought out their fifth wheel trailer and lived with us for the summer. Amy was 18 and her Granddaddy turned 71 that summer while they were there.
He was a wonderful Granddaddy to Amy. Granddaddy is what I called my mother's father when I was growing up. So it just made sense that my children would call their mother's father Granddaddy. Amy loved her granddaddy. He had a special bond with her. He always accepted her just as she was and loved her.
Her Granddaddy will be the first family member she gets to welcome to heaven. He will be able to hear her speak and sing and I imagine they will run some races together, free from the trappings of this earthly body. I must admit that I am jealous.
God gave us a blessing when He allowed us to have time with Amy before she died. Now God has granted us another special gift in allowing us to tell our father goodbye. I came two weeks ago and spent time with him in the hospital. Yesterday my son James and his wife Laura and little Will came. Another blessing to be able to hold my grandson!
 Daddy has cancer in his pancreas, colon, and stomach. He has beaten prostate cancer and lymphoma. This past surgery was the 28th surgery he has had in his life. He is ready to go to live with Jesus. We have been praying that the Lord will take him quickly and not let him suffer. But I was not ready for it. I wanted more than just a few days. I will treasure the moments I have left, just as I did with Amy. Today I was able to sing the hymn, "Our Great Savior" to him. How precious the words of the third verse,
 "Jesus! what a Help in sorrow!
While the billows o'er me roll,
Even when my heart is breaking,
He, my Comfort, helps my soul."
Update today, Monday, Nov. 16th. Daddy passed away today while I was holding his hand.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

A Mighty Fortress

Today is Halloween. I have never much cared for the holiday since I researched the history of it when I was homeschooling my children. I like to think instead of Reformation Day and Martin Luther and when I think of Luther, I can't help but think of "A Mighty Fortress."  I have always loved that hymn even as a child. I think it was the music more than the words, but as I have gotten older the words have become so sweet to me. 
I will never forget the Saturday after September 11, 2001. We were planning on visiting Lancaster Bible College where Tess was attending and see a concert by Steve Green. We questioned going because of what happened but then decided we needed to spend time with her--because of what had happened!  The concert was in a medium sized chapel on campus. It was a somber crowd that gathered and Steve Green sang acapella  "A Mighty Fortress."  I had chills and was in tears by the time he finished. Of course Amy was with us. She loved music, she loved going places, and she loved seeing her big sister.
Today I was reminded of that time.  Today I was also reminded, thanks to Facebook, of my blog last year on this day. You can read it here.
Last year I was still so full of grief over Amy's death and so many others at that time. Even our beloved dog had died.  We had just attended a funeral of a dear friend of the family and he was a Marine, like my dad. I said in my blog that I wondered if the next military funeral we attended would be my father's.  
Well, my parents have both been very ill. My mama has chronic congestive heart failure with only 15% use of her heart. My dad is in the hospital now with what they think is pancreatic cancer. His diagnosis does not look good. I am flying out on Monday morning to be with them for two weeks. I hope I can help them plan for the immediate future and be a source of comfort to them. But it is only for two weeks. It is hard living so far away.
Psalm 46:1 and 2 says, 
"God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble. 

Therefore we will not fear,
Even though the earth be removed,
And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;"

God is and always will be my source of comfort. He has taken me through the valley of the shadow of death with Amy and He will see me through whatever valleys lie ahead with my parents. 
"A Mighty Fortress" kept going through my head today. I love the last lines to this song...... 
"Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever."

His kingdom is forever, where, if we have Him as our Savior we will live with Him and those who have died in Christ before us, forever and forever.

Steve Green singing "A Mighty Fortress" 

Friday, October 9, 2015

Two and One Half years

"Sorrow....turns out to be not a state but a process," penned CS Lewis in his book A Grief Observed."  
This statement was the opening of chapter 9 titled, "Enduring" from The Scent of Water..... Grace for Every Kind of Broken by Naomi Zacharias, the book I am presently reading.  
As I am a great fan of CS Lewis' writings I eagerly read A Grief Observed  soon after Amy's death.  I didn't get much from it. It was too soon, too near the recent loss of Amy for me to find the comfort I was looking for. I didn't want to hear that grief was a process. I just wanted to not be grieving!  I just wanted Amy back.
Now I understand what Lewis was saying.
My life changed 2 1/2 years ago on April 8, 2013. I will never be the person I was back then. I will never know what it is like to not have some kind of sorrow inside of me at all times. Amy was too much a part of me to ever feel whole again. But can I find peace? Can I feel joy? I am finding out that the answer is yes! I heard a song a few weeks ago that says, "Earth has no sorrow that heaven can't heal."   My sorrow will be healed when I get to heaven. So for now on this earth I will let Jesus fill me with His joy and His peace even though a part of my heart will always be missing Amy. 
A few chapters later in Zacharias' book, she relates about a huge hole in her backyard that her dog kept digging, no matter what she did or filled it with. While she was out of town her landlord planted a large tree in the hole. I quote from the book here:
 "She grinned and quipped, "It seemed like the perfect place for a tree, don't you think?" Yes, it was the perfect place. The answer was not to cover up the hole. The solution was not to pretend the hole wasn't there. And it wasn't to leave the gaping chasm glaring back at us.  In this case, the answer was to give it purpose."
This is what my life has needed since Amy's death. My grief will always be a gaping hole. I tried to pretend it wasn't there, I tried to cover it up and I tried to fill it with busyness. But what I really needed was purpose. 
I spent so much of my time caring for Amy and loving on her that when she was gone I felt as if my purpose in life was gone. I often talked to friends about what God had planned for my life and they would say, "You're going to be a grandma. Maybe God just wants you to take care of your grandkids." But I never felt like this would be enough. 
Back in the early spring of this year I was complaining in my head about the condition of our church library. (It is also where we meet for Sunday School.) No one has done anything to it for quite a few years and books were stacked everywhere and it was just an eyesore.   I felt like God telling me to do something about it instead of complaining!  I gave it a few weeks thought and then talked to the pastor and others and I soon started to work!  The secretary showed me a "closet". A very large walk-in closet that contained boxes of books stacked chest high that had been donated to the library! Thousands of books! This has become my purpose for the last nine months. I only spend a day a week, 3-4 hours on that day, but I am finally seeing progress. I will still probably need another 3-4 months to complete this task but God has given me a purpose and a vision for the future of not only the church library, but turning the "little" closet into a children's library. It needs repair, paint, wallpaper, and much love. But I know that God will give this to me as he has each week when I go in, sit down, look at all the books, bow my head, and ask God to give me wisdom! 
Will turned one year old last month! Marissa Amy will be 6 months old tomorrow. I take care of Mari (as we call her) 3-4 days a week for 6-8 hours a day. My grandchildren give me purpose too. Here is a recent video of them together.


Will is walking and Mari will soon be crawling as she now gets up on her hands and knees and rocks back and forth. There will be a new grandchild in March. God gives me joy through them. Yes! Joy! I have purpose and I have joy.

Will is ready to make a mess!   
My sweet Emily with little Marissa Amy

 It's been 2 1/2 years and I still miss Amy dearly, but God is healing the wound. There will always be a scar, but I am healing. About a month ago I started reading through the Psalms and yesterday my Psalm for the day was Psalm 30.
Verses 2-5 and 11-12 say exactly what is in my heart:
O Lord my God, I cried unto thee, And You healed me.
O Lord, You brought my soul up from the grave; 
You have kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit.
Sing praise to the Lord, you saints of His,
And give thanks at the remembrance of His holy name. 
For His anger is but for a moment,
His favor is for life;
Weeping may endure for a night,
But joy comes in the morning.
You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
You have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, 
To the end that my glory may sing praise to You and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015


Another month has passed.  The 8th came and went. I remembered in my heart, but nothing was said. On the 10th Marissa was 4 months old. On the 21st Will will be 11 months. Another little one will be joining us in March. Will will be a "big" brother. Such wonderful news, it brought tears to my eyes, as most things do these days! 
My last post was titled, "I have a song." I think the Lord was preparing my heart for the music of this month.  

A few weeks ago I started going through the abundance of music we have collected over the years. I needed the shelf unit that our music was stored on to use in another place in our home. So I decided it was time to sort through all the music as most of it is not mine anyway! Piano music, solo music, accompaniment music, music from my childhood, the kids beginning piano books, and old hymnals. So many old hymnals! I think one of my girls collected them at one time. I was glancing through one of the hymn books and I noticed a lot of the numbers circled. For a few minutes I wondered why and then I realized it was the hymnal I used with Amy every night before bed. We would sing a hymn together before we prayed and told her goodnight. For some reason I had blocked that from my mind.  The pain that shot through me on remembering it was almost too much to bear. I could not believe that I forgotten it was a nightly ritual. I also was grieved because it is not a ritual anymore. With Amy's death some of the music in my life faded away. 
As I continued to sort through the stacks of books and sheet music I had the desire to play again. I  took piano lessons for five years as a child  but I hated it! As with a lot of things in life, when I became an adult I regretted the fact that I quit and have tried off and on to practice again. I have lost much of what I learned through lack of practice. 
I actually sat down at the piano and plucked out a tune. It felt good to feel music(if you can call it that) come from my fingers again.

Three weeks ago Emily was to sing a special number for morning worship. We had Vacation Bible School that week and she was a teacher and also working her job, so she hadn't had time to pick out a number to practice. I was in the garden Friday evening picking green beans and humming the song "Blessings."  I had sung this song in church twice and my greatest hardship at that time was sleepless nights because of the pain from my neuropathy. Wow! If I only knew the pain that was to come from a broken heart of a child's death. As I was humming I felt like God was telling me to sing it on Sunday for Emily. I did my best to argue with myself (or God?) that I wasn't ready yet. I haven't sung a solo since Amy died and I really questioned if I would ever be able to sing by myself again.  I was able to find the CD with the background vocals and I practiced it. Emily came home from work and I told her what I was thinking. I practiced it a few times on Saturday while Emily was at work and when she came home she helped me. The next to last stanza of the song says, 
"What if my greatest disappointments
Or the achings of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can't satisfy" 

 I could never make it through "achings of this life" without my voice breaking with pain. I decided that I would never be able to sing this without Emily's help. She sang part of the song for me and some of it we sang together. She sang the next to last stanza above and I was able to sing the last stanza by myself,
"And what if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are Your mercies in disguise"

 Although I didn't lift my eyes the whole time I was able to make it though the song without tears. I still don't know if I will ever be able to sing by myself but it is a beginning.

Another special thing happened just this past week. I have been taking care of Marissa quite a lot. About 8 hours a day, 4-5 days a week. I've started talking a lot to her as I used to do with Amy. About anything and everything that is going on at the time or whatever comes to my mind. I've also started singing to her.  I have hummed a lot since Amy died but not actually singing out loud while I'm working around the house like I used to. I guess having another little person who is not able to talk yet has made me start to communicate with her like I used to with Amy. I used to sing a lot to Amy. I liked to think that I was singing "with" her, because I knew that she was singing in her mind also. Now Marissa Amy just looks and looks at me and then she'll smile. I know that she will sing "with" Grandma someday.  
A few days ago I sang "Itsy Bitsy Spider" for the first time with her and she giggled when I tickled her. I burst into tears. So much joy, but still so much sorrow of missing my sweet Amy. 

Our butterfly bush outside our kitchen window has had constant visitors. Here are a few pictures I was able to capture. We have Swallowtails but this was the first Monarch I have seen in a long time.

"Blessings" by Laura Story

We pray for blessings
We pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering
All the while, You hear each spoken need
Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things

'Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You're near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

We pray for wisdom
Your voice to hear
And we cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
We doubt Your goodness, we doubt Your love
As if every promise from Your Word is not enough
All the while, You hear each desperate plea
And long that we have faith to believe

'Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You're near
And what if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

When friends betray us
When darkness seems to win
We know that pain reminds this heart
That this is not, this is not our home
It's not our home

'Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
And what if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You're near

What if my greatest disappointments
Or the achings of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can't satisfy

And what if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are Your mercies in disguise

Thursday, July 9, 2015

I Have A Song

June has seemed to fly by and we are already in July. Yesterday was the 27th month of missing Amy. Little things have brought so many tears to my eyes the last couple of weeks. Saying good bye to my parents was extremely hard. I'm not sure when I will see them again. Their health is poor and they still continue to live on the farm I grew up on, where they have lived for 55 years and in the same house my dad helped his father build when he was 15. Daddy turned 85 while I was there and Mama will be 85 in September. They do not have anyone come in to help them. My dad did agree that it was time to contact an agency. I try not to worry, but put my faith in our Lord that He will give them wisdom and strength. I took so many things for granted when I was a child. One was sunsets. Surrounded by mountains for the last 38 years, I have missed sunsets like this one.

It was so good to see the grand kids again! They had grown in just the few short weeks I had been away. As had my garden and flowers, too! We had lots of rain, sunshine and heat, perfect for growing. Something else was new.....a kitten. We named her Emmie.
See the M on her forehead? Not a very original name, I know.        

We wanted to get a dog this spring since Tipps died last fall. The humane society rejected us since we weren't going to keep it inside the house, so spring passed.  I had been praying about it, knowing that God had the right dog for us. So just a week after I was home I saw an ad in the paper for lab puppies. I called and we now have a puppy! Bill named her Ebony. She is so much fun, a little bit of work, and torture on my flowers!
 Ebony, our newest addition at 7 weeks, with our oldest cat, Bilbo, 15 years.

Little things with the babies have reminded me of Amy. Will has started to eat cut up food. He sometimes hides some of it in his cheeks. Amy used to do that. Marissa stares up at the ceiling. What does she see up there? Amy used to do that too. I think she could see things that we couldn't. Like angels. Maybe babies do too. Doesn't the Bible tell us that each little one has an angel watching over them?    Matthew 18:10

I never thought I would be sterilizing baby bottles again, but I am. I have watched Marissa Amy for two days now. Her mommy went back to work full time on the 4th of July.  As I held her yesterday and rocked her, in the chair I rocked all my babies in, I told her that she would have loved her Aunt Amy's room. She would have loved all the flowers and butterflies and the fairy that hung from the ceiling. I started weeping for all the things she will never know about her Aunt. Part of me wished I had kept Amy's room exactly the same, but the other part of me knows that we did the right thing by moving our bedroom downstairs into her room.
I shared my thoughts with Tess when she came to pick Mari up.... my sorrow that Mari will never know the sweet aunt that she was named after. In one simple sentence Tess made me realize where my heart thoughts should be dwelling. She said, "Marissa, hopefully, will know her someday." Yes, that is what I need to think of when I start feeling blue....the future. I need to be in prayer now for my grandchildren, that they will come to know the Lord at an early age and that I will be the kind of grandma that He wants me to be. Amy was what kept me close to God, because she was so needy and yet so pure and Christ-like. She is not here, but my grand kids are and they need me!
Marissa Amy has grown so much! I love her chubby legs.                                                                 
Will and Laura came to visit yesterday and we decided to get a little fresh air. 

This past Sunday a beautiful young mother sang a song I had never heard before. It really touched my heart and blessed me.  I looked up the video and it was filmed at a place Tess and I had visited in Israel many years ago. Here is the link to it.

I have a song
I Have a Song
Shannon J. Wexelberg

When the world is up against me
When it seems I’ve lost it all
And my back’s against the wall
When my heart’s grown dry and empty
When the life that I had planned
Is slipping through my hands
I hear sweet music rise above it all
And when it seemed my hope had ended, I was wrong

I have a song
And I’m singing to my Savior
Singing to the One who set me free
I have a song
And my heart will ever praise Him
This world can never take this joy from me
When all else is gone
I have a song

When I cannot see tomorrow
When the questions flood my mind
Looking back on wasted time
When my soul is full of sorrow
When the pain won’t go away
And such brokenness remains
I join the music rising far above it all
It’s an anthem to my true and faithful God

 I have a song
And I’m singing to my Savior
Singing to the One who set me free
I have a song
And my heart will ever praise Him
This world can never take this joy from me
When all else is gone
I have a song

I sing because I’m happy
I sing because I’m free
For His eye is on the sparrow
And I know He watches me!

 I have a song
And I’m singing to my Savior
Singing to the One who set me free
I have a song
And my heart will ever praise Him
This world can never take this joy from me
When all else is gone
I have a song

I, too, have a song. This is not how I planned for my life to be and sometimes my soul is still full of sorrow and the pain won't go away, but....
I have a song. I'm singing to my Savior, singing to the One who set me free, and my heart will ever praise Him. 
I have a song.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Our Cabin of Memories

 We have a cabin that we built on the land that was once Bill's father and is now ours. It is a simple 3 room cabin with a loft. We have had this small area of land picked out for over 30 years and  had built a fire pit and camped up there with a tent.  An old camper trailer even sat there for awhile. We finally started the cabin in 1998. Amy was 16. In 2002 we decided to spend our vacation time as a family finishing the interior work. I lovingly call that vacation, when we start to recollect vacations, as "the vacation from hell."  We worked up there everyday all day until dark, then we would have supper by lantern light as there is no electric. I was having sciatic nerve problems at the time and as there were no beds there yet,  we decided to sleep at our house and drive up everyday. We hadn't camped with Amy since she was about 7 or 8 years old and I knew she wouldn't get any rest if she couldn't be in her waterbed.  On the days Amy went to school we would leave as soon as she was in the van and then I would come back down and get her around three o'clock and back up the mountain the two of us would go. She was still able to sit up independently in the truck then. In later years she always needed someone to sit beside her for support. After supper in the evenings I would read aloud to the kids. Emily was 16 and James 13, but I still read aloud to them. I remember we were reading the Lord of the Rings series at the time. I would come home tired and very sore needing to care for Amy before bed. I guess that is why I gave it the nickname I did because I was not feeling like this was a "vacation." Looking back, those were good times, teaching the kids necessary skills and having time together. 

 What memories we have made over the years of great times up there with friends and family!  Amy was always a part of everything we did as a family when we went to our cabin. She eventually had an old wheelchair up there, so we didn't have to cart hers back and forth. She always sat in the cab of the truck, between Bill and I and (as she was so tiny) sometimes we would squeeze another person in there also! 

We haven't been up there as a family since Amy died. 

In a previous post I mentioned that porcupines had chewed through the floor and gotten into the cabin and made a real mess. I felt like our memories were over with the cabin. It could just be a place for the hunters to gather for all I cared. I didn't ever want to go up there again. This past fall Bill and some friends did some work up there, cleaning up the mess from the critters, replacing parts of the floor, and putting metal underneath the floor boards so this wouldn't happen again. It wasn't an easy job as there were still quills on the ground under the cabin that would stab the guys as they worked. I am so thankful that they did this and didn't have my attitude of not caring!

For some reason I wanted to go up and roast hot dogs over a fire and be up there again for awhile to hear nothing but birds, a rustle now and then of a small animal, and the cabin creaking with the wind. We made plans to go on Memorial Day even though I knew it would be hard, I just really wanted to go.
Emily, Bill, and I were the only ones that went as the others were busy. Emily had gone ahead on the 4 wheeler.  I cried most of the 20 minutes it takes to get up there in the truck.  There was this huge space between Bill and I where Amy always sat. In her later years she was always snug up against me with my arm around her and supporting her. 
Now there is only empty space.

She loved the rides in the truck, sitting at the cabin, either by the fire or inside. Of course she loved hot dogs and chips!  Sometimes I would let her rest on the sofa and encourage her to sleep, but I don't ever remember her sleeping. I think she didn't want to miss anything! Even though we didn't really do anything......she didn't want to be left out.
When we got up there I was really surprised that the fire pit had filled in with dirt and rotted leaves. I couldn't even tell it was there!
  Bill and Emily made a new little ring of stones and started a fire. I just sat on the porch steps and soaked in the silence and scenery. Then I saw it........a yellow butterfly flitting around in the woods.
I am always amazed when I see a butterfly in the oddest of places. In my heart, I feel it is God's way of letting me know that He loves me and that Amy is free, like the butterfly.
I wandered around inside the cabin and was surprised that it wasn't as dirty or disgusting as I thought it would be. It needs a good scrubbing but the men did a good job of cleaning up. We decorated the walls with puzzles that we have done over the years and glued together. This is the one in what we called "Amy's room."

Again the tears started.   Bill came in to ask me to go on a ride on the 4 wheeler and we talked about the cabin and how we must keep it up for the grand kids so they can have memories, too. When they are a little older we need to start our family get-togethers up there again. 
Here are a few pictures from our ride.

James and Laura's dog went with us. 

When we got back the fire was perfect for hot dogs! I forgot marshmallows though. I guess it had just been too long since we cooked out!

 After supper Emily and her Daddy went for a ride and I cleaned up the food and spent some quiet time on the porch. A big blue butterfly came and fluttered around me then. I only felt joy and not sorrow this time. It had been a good day.
 Here are a few photos of the trees and the mountain on the way down to our house.

Today is the 26th month anniversary of Amy's home-going. Emily and I are packing to take a road trip together. We leave early in the morning and I will be spending 10 days with my parents. We will leave for home the day after my father's 85th birthday. I will miss the grand babies while I am gone, but I know  time is fleeting for my parents. I am sure we will have precious days together reliving old memories and making new ones.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Mothers Day 2015

Today is Mothers Day. A day in the United States set aside to honor mothers. It is my third without Amy and my first as a grandmother. I have had mixed emotions the last few weeks. The tears still come so easily. 
My mother has been ill for a few months. Nobody seems to be able to diagnose her problems. She and my father live over 1000 miles away from us. I can't just go visit whenever I want. I wish I could  be with her today. 
My mom two years ago.

Last Sunday Tessa brought Marissa to church for the first time. For almost half of the service I held Will and the rest of the time I held Marissa. I cried through almost all of the worship.
I am so very very thankful for my two dear grandchildren, but I still miss Amy so much. 

Will is sitting very well by himself now and he loves to play with toys. He will soon be crawling and then babysitting will get interesting. I think I will be buying some gates! 
Will at 7 1/2 months

 Marissa is a doll. She loves to be cuddled and she is so peaceful when she sleeps and actively moving her arms and legs when she is awake. I think she will be an early crawler and walker if she continues to have as much energy as she does now.
Marissa at one month

I still struggle with fear..... Fear that something will happen to them. It is an emotion that I take to the Lord often.

I still see Amy is so many little things. I saw this figurine and the way the little girl holds her hands reminded me of Amy. It now sits in her memory garden. I also saw a cute little fairy that I added to her (overflowing with gnomes) area.

God has given us a gift of an overabundance of beautiful flowers this year. 

This past week Tessa gave me another wonderful gift. She copied all her pictures from the last two and a half years on a flash drive for me. I finally looked at them last night and thought my heart would break. Sometimes it still hurts so much to look at Amy's pictures. It gives me a pain that I cannot describe. 
But what a gift it is to have these. She took photos of when Amy was in the hospital and of her in the casket. I know that sounds morbid but I am so glad to see what she looked like once again as I have blocked that out of my mind. I only remember how hard and cold her skin felt. What a joy it is to see how beautiful she looked and how pretty we fixed up her casket. She took pictures of Amy's room and her flowers and balloons people had sent to her and to us.

Thank you, Tessa. I know you feel bad because it took you so long to get them to me, but God knew that this was the time I needed to see them.

Sisters, hand in hand a few days before Amy left us here on this earth.

Another blessing was a surprise group of photos of Amy's class releasing  balloons.  I sent her class a bunch of balloons in memory of Amy on the second year of her celebration of life. I never dreamed that they would release them. That was so special and precious to me. Thank you. I cannot share the picture because of privacy laws, but you know who you are.  Thank you so very much.

Happy first Mothers Day to my daughter, Tessa, and daughter-in-law, Laura,  and Happy Mothers Day to my dear Mama. 

My sweet Amy, I know that God allows you to send me "gifts."  I saw a big yellow and black butterfly yesterday. Thank you, sweetheart. Mommy misses you. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Cinderella, Tessa and Marissa Amy

Marissa Amy was born 2 years and 2 days after her Aunt Amy went to live in heaven. 

We gathered one week ago today at the cemetery to release balloons and remember Amy. It was dreary, cloudy and misting a little. Even with the heavy clouds the balloons still went up to the heavens. We watched until we could see them no more.  Tessa was already having some contractions but she was there at the cemetery to honor her sister.  Her labor was long and progressed slowly. On Friday after 42 hours of labor little Marissa Amy was born. 

I have, of course, had my thoughts on Tessa quite a lot this past month. We had her baby shower the end of February and she told me later that she wanted to honor Amy and tell everyone that she had always felt like a mother but the tears were already spilling over and she didn't want to make it worse for me or her. I, too, have always felt like Tessa was a second mother to Amy, but something happened last month that made me think a lot more about what it must have been like to grow up with Amy as her big sister. 
My daughters, a friend and I had a special outing to the new movie "Cinderella". It was a movie we wanted to see as soon as we saw an advertisement for it and saw that Cinderella had a glass butterfly on each of her glass slippers. We wanted to go together to remember Amy. She would have loved the movie. But that night I tried not to think of that. I just was enjoying the story and not wanting to cry. As Cinderella was being transformed into the beautiful princess by her fairy godmother, Tessa started crying and whispered to me, "I wonder if that is how Amy felt going to heaven." It did bring tears to my eyes that she was so moved by the scene, but I didn't feel the same and was confused by her feelings. We talked about it later and she said that she thought Amy would have felt beautiful just like Cinderella did.  I am beginning to realize that I haven't thought enough as to how Amy affected Tessa as they were growing up. As Amy's  mom I always thought she was beautiful. She was my baby and I took care of her and loved her. As she grew up I became her voice before the school board, the board president, and two different school superintendents and principals through the years. I was mom, and did what any mom would do. I put Tessa in this category also as she was her "second" mom. She was only two years older than Amy but took care of her just as good as I did once she was old enough to do so. I never gave much thought to how she felt having a special needs sister. Amy was a part of our family and we included her in everything we did and made adjustments so she could be included. I always tried to dress her nicely, keep the drool wiped up and keep her smelling nice.  I have realized that I don't notice other people when we are in public and I don't make eye contact because over the years I didn't want to see if people were staring at us or not.  My two youngest volunteered in Amy's classroom for a couple of years once a week, playing with the other special needs kids. Amy was just their  big sister even though she couldn't do things they could do. Emily is almost 5 years younger and James 7 years younger than Amy.
But Tessa was always there. From the beginning of her life Amy always had a big sister.  Does Tessa remember as a 4 year old when Amy started screaming and screaming and nothing could be done to comfort her? Does she remember all the doctor visits to find out what was wrong with her little sister? Does she remember being told that Amy was going to die because that is what the doctors told us? Does she remember when we finally found out that she had Rett Syndrome and the doctor said we were not given a death sentence but a life sentence of care for Amy? What are her memories from her earliest years with Amy?
Tessa tends to hold her feelings in and I am just realizing the pain that she must have felt knowing that her sister couldn't do the things that she could do. Putting herself in Amy's place,  I guess she might have felt left out and not very pretty. She might even have felt like the "cinder" of Cinderella. Never getting to play like a normal sister, not getting to dress up and go to "the ball" to meet the prince. 
I remember when Tessa went to college and she had to tell Amy goodbye. Amy blinked and blinked, trying to tell her sister that she loved her. I think now, that it must have been just as hard on Tessa to tell her sister goodbye as it was on Amy. Tessa was going on an exciting adventure, to live away from home and learn new things and meet new people. Amy had to stay at home, not just as a little sister, but forever. I was okay with that, but was Tessa? 
As time passed, Tessa moved back home, moved to an apartment and then met her husband. Her life moved on, Amy's stayed the same. But Amy's life was enriched by the people Tessa met and the constant love of Tessa and her presence in her life. She took Amy so many places and made her life full. Amy's last few years were spent surrounded by all the people who loved her the most.

Now Tessa has her own little girl. Who knows what the future holds for this wee little one. She has already had to stay in the hospital for a week due to a fever at birth while Tessa was released after 2 days. But Tessa said Amy's hospital stay has prepared her for this. It is only one more full day and she will get to bring home her precious daughter on Friday. One thing I do know. Marissa Amy is already loved more than any little girl could possibly be  loved.
Marissa one day old with Mom and Dad
Two days old.

I also know that God holds the future.
I am reminded of an old song by the Gaithers,

"Because He Lives"

God sent His son, they called Him, Jesus;
He came to love, heal and forgive;
He lived and died to buy my pardon,
An empty grave is there to prove my Savior lives!

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow,
Because He lives, all fear is gone;
Because I know He holds the future,
And life is worth the living,
Just because He lives!

How sweet to hold a newborn baby,
And feel the pride and joy he gives;
But greater still the calm assurance:
This child can face uncertain days because He Lives!

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow,
Because He lives, all fear is gone;
Because I know He holds the future,
And life is worth the living,
Just because He lives!

And then one day, I'll cross the river,
I'll fight life's final war with pain;
And then, as death gives way to victory,
I'll see the lights of glory and I'll know He lives!

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow,
Because He lives, all fear is gone;
Because I know He holds the future,
And life is worth the living,
Just because He lives!

Friday, April 3, 2015

Finally March is over and April is here!

March has seemed forever long to me this year.
Our weekend away for Amy's birthday brought back many memories of our oldest daughter's days living in Lancaster, going to college and then another year on her own. So many trips back and forth to see her singing and other special events, shopping and seeing the sights of the city. One place we had never visited was the reproduction of the Biblical tabernacle. We went there on the morning of Amy's birthday. It was very informative and we enjoyed the presentation and also the movie in the information center about the Amish and their faith. I have been doing a study on the tabernacle and I have thought of that morning often over the last few weeks. We had a late lunch and after ordering I used the restroom and there was my niece from England! 
That was definitely a blessing from the Lord as they were finished eating and on their way out the door when her daughter had to use the washroom.  They sat and visited with us while we ate and then we shared a few more precious minutes before they had to be on their way. This was the same niece that visited us for two weeks in January and so it was so good to see them once again.

 On the way home we were also able to visit with another niece and finally get to meet her youngest baby.

We wandered through the country, enjoyed the snow and the Amish farms. We happened upon this farm with the snow people and a snow cave.

A day after we came back home Bill had his shoulder operated on again. All went well and he had intense physical therapy and is still going to therapy three times a week even though the spring work has now started. He is still in a good bit of pain, but manages to put up with it. 

I was on the edge of tears most of the month. Just waiting. Waiting for spring and warm weather, waiting for the month of Amy's birth and the memories of her hospitalization of two years ago to be over, waiting for the birth of a granddaughter. WAITING.  It is not an easy thing to do or something I do well. 

One Sunday we were all in church together. The first hymn we sang that morning was "Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee." This was the first song we sang at Amy's funeral. She loved Beethoven and really liked this hymn. I think this is the first time we sang it since she died. Emily and I looked at each other and the tears started.Then we sang a new song, "Sovereign Over Us."  (New to me, anyway.)

There is strength within the sorrow
There is beauty in our tears
And You meet us in our mourning
With a love that casts out fear
You are working in our waiting
You're sanctifying us
When beyond our understanding
You're teaching us to trust

Your plans are still to prosper
You have not forgotten us
You're with us in the fire and the flood
You're faithful forever
Perfect in love
You are sovereign over us

You are wisdom unimagined
Who could understand Your ways
Reigning high above the Heavens
Reaching down in endless grace
You're the lifter of the lowly
Compassionate and kind
You surround and You uphold me
And Your promises are my delight

Your plans are still to prosper
You have not forgotten us
You're with us in the fire and the flood
You're faithful forever
Perfect in love
You are sovereign over us
I was holding baby Will and I could see Tessa's very pregnant tummy on the other side of Bill. I had so much to be thankful for, but I was feeling such loss. Most of that service I spent in tears.

The following Sunday we had a guest speaker. The title of his sermon was "For the Glory of God." He talked about our inevitable encounter with loss, that everything is about our change of heart, and everything is for God's glory. He read the passage about Lazarus, Mary and Martha, "This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it." John 11:4  
He said we can put whatever is going on in our life in the blank.   This _______________ is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it.   God spoke to me through this message and I realized that my life is not about Amy's death, but about the glory of God. And then in verses 14 and 15,  "So Jesus then said to them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, and I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, so that you may believe; but let us go to him.” I realized that God could have healed Amy but He chose not to. He chose to take her to heaven with Him, for His glory.  Do I really, really believe this? Does self-pity rule my heart or does God? 
What God impressed upon my heart the most was that I need to visit Amy's grave with celebration not with sorrow. I need to celebrate the day of her "going to heaven to live with Him" not as a horrible thing but one of great glory!  I have found it difficult to visit the cemetery since my niece and family were here. I used to go there a lot and talk to Amy and cry. Almost always I would go in sorrow.  But then I started to feel like there was no reason to go anymore. It just seemed so meaningless. She's not really there. But listening to the preacher talk about Mary and Martha and how everything that happens to us is for the glory of God, I realized that there is reason to visit her grave still and that reason is for rejoicing! Rejoicing that she is no longer living in this world full of sickness and pain, but living in a beautiful palace with the King.

My sister posted a photo on Facebook and my niece, Jenna,  used the idea and took one of the pictures from Amy's funeral and shared this:
Thank you sweet Jenna, for this photo. I needed this reminder. I still need it and I always need to remember it was for God's glory that He took Amy home.
We will be celebrating the second anniversary of Amy's home-going on Wednesday. As last year, we will meet at the cemetery and each release a balloon in Amy's memory. Last year  we had an extra balloon for the child Laura was carrying. This year we will add another balloon for Tessa and Brad's little girl. Only God knows if she will still be in the womb or in her mother's arms.