Praying for our First Thanksgiving Without Mom

Abba Father,

My heart is heavy. Something about holidays this first year since Mama went home to You is heartbreaking. I’m not sure why, because the last few years of her life she wasn’t participating with us anyway. And she hadn’t really known me for long before that.

But even though that was hard, I could still bring Mama a Thanksgiving meal. I could feed her mashed potatoes and gravy. I could hold her soft hand. I could hope for a sweet word from her. Sometimes she’d say something that made me laugh. Sometimes she’d thrill me by saying my name.

And I could know that when I left, Mama had Daddy and Daddy had Mama. And Dad would tell Mom over and over how much he loved her. And Mom would flutter tap his back for hours as they snuggled in bed together.

Oh Abba Father, I know Mama is with you now. I know she will have the best Thanksgiving ever. And I’m so grateful for that and for You and for eternity. But I don’t know how to prepare for Thanksgiving on earth, when all I want to do is cry. I have so many blessings to be thankful for. SO MANY! And I am grateful, Lord, I truly am.

And yet the emotions and the tears keep coming. How can I honor You through this, Abba? What do You want me to do?

Help me Lord, please, to:

  • keep my focus on You and Your faithfulness and presence
  • continually give thanks
  • love and enjoy the people and moments you bless me with today
  • be faithful in the responsibilities You’ve given me right now 
  • let go of stress, worry, and perfection and trust that Thanksgiving, with all its details, is in Your hands
  • appreciate my family and not drive them crazy prepping for the day

Thank You, Abba Father, that You are merciful and good and so faithful! Thank You that Your mercies surround us, Your compassions are new every morning, and that Your love never fails.

Tuck me closely under Your wings when the tears need to fall. And then lift me up on wings like eagles when I need to get the work done. Thank You for your tenderness and gentleness with me, Lord.

And Jesus, would You please give Mama a big hug for me? Tell her I miss her and love her so much. And tell her I’ll try to make Thanksgiving as sweet and warm and fun and delicious as she did for us, for so many years.

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Beauty for Ashes–Learning to Trust my Grief to Jesus

I’m getting those feelings again. I call it “feeling emotional”. I think it’s because of the season. This time last year I was debating even celebrating Thanksgiving, because Mama was doing so poorly. She passed on just a couple weeks later, on December 12th.

I was reading in Isaiah today, and I noticed in chapter 61, a description that fits these feelings well…”the spirit of heaviness.” It is a heaviness on my heart, a closeness to tears, a mourning.

It’s a time of missing Mom. Of realizing that last year was the last Thanksgiving we had together, after a lifetime of sharing the sweet joys of it. And this Christmas will be the second Christmas without her. But last year, the holiday came so quickly after her passing that there was still some numbness and shock as I wrapped gifts and prepared.

I wonder what this year will be like.

And I read this sixty first chapter of Isaiah over again. Especially the verses I have underlined. And they say that Jesus came to comfort and console all who mourn… to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness…that He may be glorified.

I know that Jesus came to save us from our sins. He took the punishment for all that stands between us and God, so that all who believe in Him and trust in Him can be forgiven and live with Him forever. And I’m so grateful! Especially because I know I will see Mama again and spend eternity with her!

But He also came to comfort and console all those who mourn! He knows that mourning is heartbreaking. He knows us! And He cares and He loves us!

Maybe the comfort and joy is just knowing that this is not the end. That those who trust Him will have an eternity with Him. That believers who pass are instantly in His presence. And these are priceless comforts for sure!

But these verses say even more to me. They give me a picture of Jesus with His arms open wide. I see Him hugging me close with compassion. I sense Him whispering, I will be with you in this time of mourning. Trust Me. Run to Me. Weep on My shoulders. I will bring beauty out of these ashes. I will turn the weight of these emotions into praise. 

I remember how hard it was walking through Alzheimer’s with Mom. And how often I would tell myself, This is hard. But God will give me grace. And He did, even through the tears and pain.

And now Jesus is walking me through this season of mourning. I picture Him lifting my chin gently and looking into my eyes. I sense Him saying, I know this is hard. I understand. But I am with you. I will give you grace. I will never leave you.

And I believe Him.

It was just about this time last year, that Mama had a very bad night. We thought she was dying. We were crying and praying and calling hospice. And then she came out of it and seemed normal for her again. And we sighed and smiled with relief.

The next morning my daughter was taking care of her, when Mama said, “God is here.”

“Yes, Grandma. God is here.”

And Mom added, “He is bigger.”

Mom was barely talking at all at that point. And though she had a solid faith when her mind was strong, she was never one to speak often about God. So it especially stood out to us that she said this.

And we wondered if she’d seen an angel, or God even. Or if just the nearness of death had made His presence more real to her.

I’m not sure what she saw, if anything. But I know that it’s true. God is here. He is with us. And He is bigger.

He is bigger than Alzheimer’s. He is bigger than death. He is bigger than mourning and grief and the missing. He is bigger than emotions and heaviness and broken hearts.

I can give it all to Him. I can trust Him to somehow bring beauty out of the ashes and pain and grief of it all.

He’s not telling me to stop crying or to stop feeling what I’m feeling. He’s reminding me to trust Him with it all. To remember that He is near. To know that He is the God of all comfort and the Shepherd that restores my soul. He is with me through this valley of shadows.

And I recall the last hymn that Mama remembered how to sing. She sang it often, and a little “warbly” and out of tune…

...What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear…what a privilege to carry, everything to God in prayer…

Thank you for leaving me with that hymn, Mama. And thank You, Jesus, for being that Friend.

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Some Days You Need to Bake Cookies

I don’t need cookies. But some days I need to bake them. Like the other day, when I was babysitting my two year old grand and wanted to make a memory with her. I had an abundance of peanut butter, so they became the cookie of choice.

I took out my mama’s most beloved cookbooks and looked up the recipe in both. These were the cookbooks I remembered Mama using my whole childhood. The ones falling apart and taped together, with worn pages that had torn through the holes that held them in place.

I looked through them gingerly, these almost sacred artifacts of the past. These books that sing stories to me of Mama young and healthy and laughing. These books that bring back the sweet scents of cookies fresh from the oven and Mama, rosy and smiling, saying, “Wait until they cool a bit.”

I remember standing on a chair at the counter, helping mix up cookies. So, I help my granddaughter stand on a chair by me, and she delights in trying to grab each measuring cup and spoon from me before I quite have it filled. She gleefully drops each measured spoon and cup full into the mixing bowl. And then energetically stirs with my grandma’s big wooden spoon, flipping cookie dough out of the bowl in the process.

I roll the dough into balls and she keeps rearranging them on the cookie sheet. I take a fork from my childhood days, and show her how to press the dough ball down. She pokes at the balls eagerly. I wonder to myself what I was like “helping” Mom when I was two years old.

I looked in my china hutch and found a plate Mama gave me when she still had her memories. She said it was one of her mama’s plates. I think she said it came in a big bag of oatmeal. I know she said some of their dishes did.

I put the cookies I baked, using Mama’s recipe, on the plate that belonged to Grandma. We ate some while they were fresh and still slightly warm. They don’t look as good as Mama’s cookies did. They don’t taste quite as good as I remember Mom’s either. But there is something satisfying in tangibly seeing this connection to Mama’s past.

Something about this plate of cookies makes my memories of Mom and Grandma more vivid. I can picture them sitting at the table with me now, eyes sparkling, nibbling cookies, laughing and talking about recipes and grandchildren and life.

I wonder how many cookies they baked with their own children, and then with their grandchildren. Now they are together in Heaven. But I feel their presence. I sense their smile. “It’s your turn now!” is the message I hear.

Carry on the legacy! Love your family well. Treasure your grands. Pray for them and love them and teach them about Jesus. Tell them about their Great-Grandma and Great-Great Grandma. Read to them, laugh with them, sing with them, dance with them.

And don’t forget the cookie baking. The memories are worth the mess.

I don’t need cookies. But somedays I need to bake them.

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Heavenly Dreaming

It’s a week shy of ten months since Mama passed, and last night I had my first dream about her. Or at least the first dream I have any remembrance of having.

In my dream, I was at Mom and Dad’s house, with my brothers and their wives, and a couple young children. We were working on some kind of project together and watching the children play, when I noticed that Mom was there and up and walking fine! As I watched her I saw that she was almost running gracefully in a circle in the living room! And then she did a ballet movement with pointy toes and everything!

I was amazed. “Mom is walking!” I said.

And my sister-in-law answered, “I know!”

And then all kinds of thoughts ran through my dreaming brain. She’s walking so well! Maybe the medicine they put her on messed up her walking. But no, she was losing the ability before she started the meds. But look– she’s fine! Why did we have a memorial service? Why did we tell everyone she died? She’s alive! She’s fine! She’s better than ever! I have to tell Dad!

Then I went looking for him. As I left the room, I heard Mama laughing with the children who had dressed up silly to surprise her. It was her beautiful laugh from healthy times, full of delight and love! It so warmed my heart!

I found Dad standing strong in a big work shop, busy making something like he used to love to do, with eyes that could see again. For some reason these changes in him didn’t surprise me. I told him, “Dad! Mom is walking fine! She’s almost running and dancing!”

And Daddy’s eyes teared up with joy. He wasn’t shocked that she was alive. He was just so happy that she could walk well again!

I woke up right after that. I yearned to go back to sleep and somehow get into the same dream and watch Daddy find Mom walking and dancing. How fun that would have been to see him marvel over her being alive and able to walk!

I recalled how painful it had been to see Mama’s ability to walk dwindle down to a hunched over mincing step. I remembered the day the hospice nurse said it wasn’t safe to have her even try walking anymore. And then many months later, I recall when the nurse said we should stop trying to get her out of bed.

Around that time Mama spoke some of her last words. She told my daughter, “God is here. He is bigger.” And when she passed home to Jesus, a week or so after that, Mama had such a sweet look of incredible peace on her face.

I remembered all of this, as I reflected on the dream that still seemed so real. Mama was alive and running and dancing and laughing with little children! I couldn’t stop smiling about that.

As we sipped our morning coffee, I told my husband about the dream. He smiled and said, “You dreamt about heaven.” And I agreed.

And though I’m in tears as I write this, I have a deep peace in knowing there is truth in this dream. Mama is able to run and dance and laugh with children today! I know because of Jesus it is true. And I know one day we will be together again for eternity.

Until then, I’m grateful for this dream that gives me a glimpse of Mama’s happiness now. Keep running Mama! Keep dancing and laughing! It blesses me so to know you are surrounded by God’s peace and love!

“And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there will be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. there shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4 (NKJV)

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My Camelot Moment

I’m having a hard day for many reasons. I still have so much to be grateful for, but I wish I could hug my Mama. Or hear her say one of her quirky, funny things that could just make me smile.

Today I will content myself with a memory I wrote down years ago. Such a sweet memory overflowing with tender mercies. A perfect “Camelot” moment…

February 6, 2013

Moments to remember today…. Mom was in bed napping when I came over. When she opened her eyes and saw me she said, “Oh, you can lay down with me. Come on.” So I snuggled next to my mama, recalling the instant feeling of security and love that spot gave me as a child, when I couldn’t sleep or had had a bad dream. I asked her who I was, and she quickly said, “You’re Cheryl.” And I felt warm and safe like that child of years ago.
Later in the day I said, “Mom, do you love me?
She answered instantly, with enthusiasm, “Sure, I do!”
So I held my breath and braved the question, “Do you know who I am?”
“You’re Cheryl! Aren’t you?” she said. She knew my name and was sure she loved me—such a gift!
Later in the day, she was again asking my name. But I had my brief, shining “Camelot” ….and it will not be forgot.

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Hugging Mama

This week marks nine months since Mama went Home to Jesus. I miss her so much. It feels like anything and everything can remind me of her. Maybe because she’s never far from my thoughts.

I just want to feel her close to me again. I know aromas can bring you back in time, but Mom didn’t use perfume, so I wonder if scrubbing the bathroom with Comet and Lysol would bring a sense of her presence. Do they even make that original liquid extra strength Lysol anymore?

Baking is another idea that comes to mind. But I’ve been using Mama’s recipes ever since I got married, so the memories they evoke aren’t just mama related now. They are a sweet mix of history, and growing children, and family parties past and present.

I just want to hug mom. I just want a big, long, warm hug of her soft motherliness. I picture a memory I have from five years ago that is so vivid I can almost feel it, and it brings back a glow of joy…

When I went to visit Mom and Dad today, their front door was locked. Mom tried to unlock it on the inside, while I used my key on the outside. When I finally got the door open and walked in, Mom’s face lit up with such delight and she wrapped her arms around me to give me a hug. Even though she struggled to remember my name, the sweetness of her smile and hug is still warming my heart.

Oh how I’d love that hug right now!

And it makes me think how Mom must have been welcomed into Paradise. Imagine the hug her own mama gave her! And the hugs of brothers, friends, a sister and others that have gone on ahead of her! And I can picture Jesus hugging her, too!

It also reminds me of the verse, “Look! I stand at the door and knock! If you hear My voice and open the door, I will come in…” Rev. 3:20.

Jesus not only knows all of our names, He even knows the number of hairs on our heads. Imagine the warmth and delight of His love, when one of His children opens the door of their life to Him!

And what a merciful comfort to know that someday I will hug my precious mama again.

Meanwhile, I do have some Comet, and my bathroom could use a good scrubbing. Maybe it’s worth a try…

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Mama’s First Birthday With Jesus

Mama’s first birthday in heaven is coming up in a couple days. I know it will be amazing for her! Back here on earth, I’m struggling and feeling emotional. These holidays seem to pull me from what I’ll call “adjusted mourning” back into deep mourning. I’m not crying, but I feel like it almost constantly.

I decided to spend some time on Ancestry.Com, to honor Mama and our heritage. So I’ve spent some hours delving into the past, learning things about great-great-great grandparents…imagining what life must have been like then. It intrigues me to think of this chain of people that were crucial to Mama being born. And to me being here now.

The DNA of people I’ve never met, are woven into who we are. I wonder how many of them Mama is meeting for the first time in heaven. I wonder how many of them knew Jesus and trusted in Him.

This will be my first time ever not celebrating Mama’s birthday with her. The last few years our celebrations have been “interesting”. I still smile when I think of the one in 2014…

I baked a cake for Mom and brought it to her house. She sat with me and I asked, “How’s my Mama?”
Mom answered, “I don’t know. I didn’t ask her. Ask her… Esther? Where’s Esther?”

She started shouting, “ESTHER!” (As far as I know Mom has never known an Esther.) Mom shouted, “CRAZY PEOPLE!” Then she started singing random words. 

“Mom,” I said, “It’s your birthday.”
“It is?”
“Yes… You’re 81.”
“Eighty-one?” She said some words I didn’t understand and ended with, “It’s possible.”

I started singing, “Happy Birthday to you…”
Mom shouted, “ME! NOT YOU!”
I started singing again, “Happy birthday to you…”
And Mom sang the next line in rhythm, “…said somebody but you don’t know who….” And we both started laughing. 
I started singing again, “Happy Birthday…”
And Mom jumped in with, “…to me, Happy Birthday to Nina Fay….” And then she kept singing but with different words and melody, “What a wonderful day…oh what a wonderful day…”

I wrote her name down for her and she said that it looked right. Then she suddenly burst out singing, “What a friend we have in Jesus…” and sang the whole chorus word for word!

We gathered around the kitchen table to have her blow her candles out. Dad says birthday candles have always been important to her, but she didn’t want to be at the table and she didn’t know how to blow out the candles. He kept trying to talk her into it.
Finally I said, “Mom, look at me, I’m going to blow out one candle and you blow out the other.” As she saw me blowing, I think it reminded her how to do it and she also blew one out. Hurrah!

She ate her cake, but was agitated and restless and wanted to leave the table. At one point she shouted, “Go home!”
“Do you want me to go home?” I asked.
Mom cleverly answers, “That’s a good way to get there.”

 

Oh, Mama! I never knew what I’d get from her in those years. But she made me laugh and cry and love her more. And I just miss her now.

I don’t know what I’ll do this year without her on her birthday. I’m thinking I may bake her a cake and bring it over to Daddy. I’m guessing I’ll cry, since I am right now just thinking about it.

But I can also rejoice. Because I know Mama will be having her best birthday ever, with her friend Jesus. And I can imaging many of these ancestors I’m researching now are gathering around her and finding out how warm and fun and sweet Mama is. And they are laughing with her and loving her more and more.

And for her it will be a wonderful day. Oh, what a wonderful day!

“And Jesus replied, ‘I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.'”

Luke 23:43 (NLT)

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