As we experience the Fall 2020 season, I begin to reflect more than usual on the 14th anniversary of my Mama’s passing on October 24, 2006, I wanted to share what I have learned are some of the best ways to help those who are grieving.
Though I am not able to visit Mama and Daddy’s grave regularly, I am happy Donny and I will drive by there later today on our way to see our friends in Abingdon, Virginia.
Did you know? The definition of bereaved is “to be deprived of a loved one through a profound absence, especially due to the loved one’s death”. With our global Pandemic far from over, many of us have suffered unexpected loss. WE were never meant to journey through this life alone. I know we are all beyond grateful for the front-line health care providers who have been with our loved ones when no visitors have been permitted during Covid-19.
People may excite themselves in a glow of compassion not by toasting their feet at the fire and saying, ‘Lord, teach me more compassion,’ but by going and seeking a person who needs compassion.” Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887, an abolitionist)
This fall, in November, also marks the passing of my Daddy, seven years ago. With both of my parents now gone, I have been encouraged by friends and family, alike.
We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand…and melting like a snowflake. Let us use it therefore before it is too late.” Marie Edith Beynon
(1) Show Up. When you’re not sure what to do, simply be there. Those who are grieving want to know you are praying for them and that you care about their loss. This calls for us to reach for courage in order to go to the hard place and love on those in need. Show up with attention and grace.
The people we love most do become a physical part of us. When we lose them, be it by death or earthly separation, the sense of rupture is real and raw. Meghan O’Rourke
(2) Don’t worry if you don’t have the right words to say. My Mama used to tell me that if I didn’t know what to say, it wasn’t necessary to say anything, but to be physically present is always important.
(3) Remember them in the weeks and months ahead. Mark your calendar if necessary to remind yourself to drop them an encouraging note, text, or email. Share your memories of their beloved one. Mail a book, a small gift, or drop some banana bread by their home to let them know their loss has not been forgotten. Many who lose a loved one feel as though everyone else’s life is going on and they are stuck in this place of grief.
YOUR reaching out to them may be just what they need at a particular time.
(4) Speak their name. Never stop saying their loved one’s name. Some people may believe that speaking the deceased’s name will bring the survivors sadness, but instead there’s a good chance it will bring them joy as you remember their loved one by speaking his/her name often.
There are many additional ways to
come alongside and encourage those who are grieving.
Thanksgiving 2019 comes late this year! November 28, 2019. We plan to enjoy a much smaller than usual gathering in the North Georgia Mountains. But first, tomorrow, we will celebrate the life of our dear friend, Debra O’Dell, age 58, who passed recently from a cancer battle. Debbie has been quite the fighter and lover of life, as a Kindergarten, a missionary, a Mom, a wife, a devoted servant in our church and the kindest friend you could ever have. Deb will be greatly missed!
I am grateful for what I am and for what I have. My thanksgiving is perpetual.” Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)
One of our favorite long-time traditions on this day is passing out three dried corn kernels to each person present.Standing in a circle, before we bless the feast, we pass a small bowl around and have each one name three things they are thankful for while placing the kernels in the bowl. As we do this, we remember the pilgrims who went before us, making the famous 1620 voyage, and we share aloud our gratitude for life. You and your family may want to consider beginning a similar tradition for Thanksgiving 2018.
What will be on the menu for your Thanksgiving Feast this year? You may want to consider a salad bar station like the one pictured above. This makes for a lighter addition to the otherwise heavier choices.
As a Mommy, Daddy, Grandparent, an Aunt, or any other position you can name, does your special little one do and say unforgettable things? I bet he or she does, like ALL THE TIME. But as the moment goes by, the laughter has silenced, the memories may have a tendency to fade. One of my favorite things I did for both of our children was to write them notes now and then. These short letters are compiled in these Precious Moments books shown above.
Now that Donny and I are first-time grandparents to Tripp Andrews – born 8/24/18 and nearly 11 weeks old and Elizabeth Page-born 9/7/18 and nearly 9 weeks old, I hope to record our memories of times spent with them.
I know it may feel like “one more thing to do”, but these little books have sparked countless discussions as I have read aloud portions on special occasions such as a birthday or a graduation. Here’s what I did. I simply recorded my thoughts in the form of a “Dear Leah” letter and a “Dear Walker” letter. And your special loved ones don’t have to be in their youth either…they could be grown and live away and you could simply share some musings you have about them. Of course, if they are grown, you could actually mail them a real letter, which can be so so much more meaningful than a text or an email.
I started Leah’s book when she was a few months shy of her second birthday, and Walker’s when he was a newborn. My last entries were made for both just after their two weddings took place in 2014. There are some blank pages, so who knows? Maybe, I will make more notations in there at some point.
What a fun thing for them to have … notes about their childhood, and this will also be a cool thing to share with their own children some day. This post is not meant to make any one of you “feel bad” for not having done this particular thing with your own children. Everyone and every home is unique and this is just something I wanted to share with you that we did. Memories are alive, and they live forever, no matter what we might do to maintain them. Perhaps many of you reading have grown children, or no children, and are wondering who you could now write notes to? A grandchild? A neighbor child, family child whom you are watching grow up?
'In the end it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years.'
This can be a very simple, yet meaningful activity. And it can be cathartic as well, because it allows us to get down on paper some of our heart thoughts and affirmations about one that you dearly love. All you need is a blank book of your choice and a pen or pencil. Here below are a few of the entries in Leah and Walker’s little memory books. Why not start today?
Dear Leah, February 5, 1996
We are out of school today for snow and ice. I guess Walker has been getting to you…(as siblings often do!) because today you told me you wanted to put him outside on a stand with a sign that says: “BROTHER FOR SALE ONLY $5.00!”
Dear Walker, December 22, 1995
Dear Walker, I guess you are ready for a bigger bed, because you fell out of your race car bed last night. I think it scared you because your were crying so hard and your heart was beating like crazy! Daddy and I got you a new twin bed for Christmas and you are going to love it!
Soon after I announced that we were expecting our first two grands, one of my Pages From Joan readers, Trish, mailed me a Grandmother’s Prayer Book. I have so enjoyed documenting my heart’s longings for both Tripp and Elizabeth.
I hope some of you will consider starting a little “Dear_________________ Book” for someone who means the world to you. This is really way easier than a “baby book” or a “scrapbook” that can sometimes feel too daunting. I included photos, ticket stubs, and even flocks of hair from a haircut in a ziplock bag with a date.
You will not be disappointed with the opportunity to share the collection of memories!
Here I will share with you four ways to better love our peeps. As Valentine’s Day is here, our minds go to the significant, loving relationships in our life journey. Are they fulfilling, communicative, in harmony, and committed? Do we enjoy time spent with these we are in relationship with? Do we laugh together? Most of us if we are completely honest, would say, that our relationships could be better.
One of the things my Mama taught me is a tool she used during her 58 years of marriage. When the faults of her man seemed glaring to her, she would take a moment, hold out both hands in front of her, like a scale, and say this to herself: “My right hand represents Johnny’s shortcomings, and my left hand represents the ways that I fall short.” Invariably, she would tell me, her left hand always weighed heavier than her right.
'Dear Friends, Let us love one another, for love comes from God.'
1 John 4:7
Rather than wanting our partners to change so things would be better, perhaps it is time to determine how we could show up differently and make the difference we are seeking.
Here are three ways to better love our peeps:
1) Cultivate Your Love Life Inside Out
This first one may surprise you, as it has less to do with your relationships and more to do with your inner heart. Did you know? Studies have shown that one will never let oneself have more health, happiness, and success than one feels he/she deserves. What does that mean? This means that right this minute you and I are attracting what we feel worthy of having. What would you say your current self-worth score is on a scale of 1-10? What things could you do to increase that score? Before we can expect to find love from anyone else, we first have to find it within ourselves. Our God loves us and wants us to have self-worth and self-respect. And let’s surround ourselves with people who truly love and support us!
'Friends are like elevators. They either take us up or bring us down.'
(2) Leave the Blame Game Behind
I know when I criticize my husband of nearly 35 years, he literally shuts down, not with anger, just sadness. Blaming and judging will guarantee a poor partnership! Lucille Ball said, “Love yourself, and everything else will fall into place.” Could it be that there is something you are ‘unhappy’ within yourself? Think about it! An important relationship is our connection to our own heart. When we accept ourselves as we are, then and only then can we accept others without condition.
(3) Let The Past Go
Every beating heart has a story and our history (thank goodness!!!) is not our destiny. It’s good to habitually say to ourselves: “That was then. This is now.” We all have things in our past we may not be proud of, but we can let that all go and focus on today. “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, and today is a gift. That is why we call today, ‘the present'” (unknown)
(4)Live Out Our Days with Gratitude and Appreciation
Wayne Dyer said: “Change the way you look at things and the things you look at will change.” In every loving relationship, there are more good things than bad things going on. However, if the negative things become our ‘focal point’, then they seem way bigger and become more and more dominant in our partnership. Read this by Charles Swindoll on Attitude. We all get to choose the thoughts that control our feelings and emotions that end up driving our lives.
Now, we all know that Valentine’s Day is just one more day established by Hallmark, LOL!
Love Always Wins!
What are some of the ways you and I can exhibit more love towards our peeps each and every day of the year? How can we make our parents, sons, daughters, girlfriends, and partners feel more treasured and cherished in the days ahead?
I’ve especially been thinking about Chapter 2~”Keeping the Love Tank Full”.
Psychologists have concluded that the need to feel loved is a primary human emotional need. For love, we will climb mountains, cross seas, traverse deserts, and endure untold hardships. Without love, mountains become unclimbable, seas uncrossable, deserts unbearable, and hardships our plight in life.
Gary Chapman, author of The Five Love Languages
I think it is a good idea, now and then, for us to take a look at self-love.
Yes, everyone needs love, that is clear, but we also need to extend love to ourselves, giving ourselves mercy and grace as we journey through this life. Again, we expend a lot of time and energy caring for and loving the people in our homes and we must not forget to love ourselves…treat ourselves with kindness. That means we cannot allow ourselves to be in the habit of repetitive self-criticism, self-loathing, working ourselves to exhaustion, living an unbalanced life with no time for rest, relaxation, restoration and recreation. Click here to read an earlier post to inspire you on ways to nurture yourself: Solitude: 7 Ways To Find It.
How is your love tank looking? Are you running on empty? Let’s not wait for others to fill it up, let’s fill it up ourselves! Give yourself an “atta girl!” or an “atta boy” today. Be beautiful and unique YOU!
For attractive lips, speak words of kindness. For lovely eyes, seek out the good in people. For a slim figure, share your food with the hungry. for beautiful hair, let a child run his/her fingers through it once a day. For poise, walk with the knowledge that you never walk alone. People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone.
The above message came from British humanitarian and actress, Audrey Hepburn (1929-1993) when asked to share her “beauty tips.”
Memorial Day! Cookouts, beach trips, boat rides, parades, picnics are just a few of the activities you and I are taking part of on this Memorial Day, 2016 as we celebrate the start of SUMMER!
We are the home of the free because of the brave.
I want to share with you three ways to honor and raise up our flag as you enjoy this special time with your favorite people. Click here for an amazing 3 minute Memorial Day video produced by Zoomability.
As I have been placing flags around in flower pots and window sills, my mind keeps going back to when I was ten years old and the U.S. was directly involved in the Vietnam War. Over 58,000 Americans were killed in this horrific war, and if you have never taken the time to view pictures/videos about it, or if you haven’t in years, I strongly urge you to click here to learn more about this time. The U.S. involvement was during the 1962 and 1973, and as a girl at the time, in addition to the news/media coverage, I have three vivid memories.
First, a close friend of our family, Timothy Faust was injured badly in Vietnam and I remember us standing on our driveway on Webster Drive together when he came home. Tim’s mouth was covered with gauze because of the deformity caused by his injuries. After many, many surgeries, Tim passed away as a result of his injuries. Second, our family was very close with The Allen Family, who attended church with us. Their brother, Larry Michael Allen was killed instantly in ‘Nam and here is what a U.S.A. Today article stated in 2012:
“I will mark this Memorial Day by remembering Larry [Michael] Allen, a fallen Marine from Decatur, Ga. On June 18, 1970, somewhere in Vietnam, our squad ran into an ambush and was surrounded. We were taking heavy fire from the enemy we could not see. We were advancing when Larry (Mike) stepped directly in front of me and one other Marine, taking a bullet wound in the lower stomach, meant for us. As he lay dying before us, I will never forget the helplessness I felt. The firefight was so intense that our choppers could not get in to help Larry (Mike) and the other wounded. That day, we lost a wonderful 18-year-old Marine who not long before was running high school track in Georgia. I salute you, Larry (Mike). Thanks for giving two of us our lives. Semper fi, my friend. Terry Franks; Springville, Ala.”
And a word from Betty Lou, Mike’s sister: Sgt. Terry Franks, came to meet my folks in August 1970 when he returned home to B’ham. He still keeps in touch with my mom, called last month.
True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost.
And thirdly, and closest to me, my own big brother, John Wade Walker was serving there as a Marine. John was the oldest of six children and I recall Mama praying around our dinner table for his safety. Thankfully, John and his wife of four decades live in southern Mississippi and have three grown married children as well as three grandchildren. John went onto become a lifetime Marine, serving in many future battles. Semper Fi!
(1) Think of and remember those, and their families, who have given the ultimate sacrifice, their lives, for our freedom.
(2) Teach and train up our children with understanding about what our flag represents.
Cub Scout Pack 178 and Boy Scout Troop 173 Scouts in Marietta, Georgia placed 18,000 flags in minutes. My friend, Stephen Moon shared this story from their day:
“This happened to make it even more special: A stranger was waiting to take a picture. After Sam placed the flag, Colleen started to cry and thanked him. This was her father’s final resting place (Marine Cpl. Richard D. Marks, Korean War)”
(3) Honor and pray for those who are currently serving for the preservation of our freedom.
What memories does this Memorial Day 2016 trigger for you? How can you and I raise up and honor our flag in the days ahead?
I had the opportunity this past Tuesday to go to The Barter Theater, again with my lifelong friend, Kelly Read.
You have been my friend, that in itself is a tremendous thing.” Charlotte to Wilbur in the story of Charlotte’s Web
If you have never had the chance to visit this theater and the quaint Virginia town of Abingdon, please put it on your radar for a trip in the future. Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, in Southwest Virginia, this town not only boasts of this great, old theater, but also the famous Virginia Creeper Trail. I like to joke and ask my husband again and again, “When can we move here!?!” Seriously, we love it!
Charlotte’s Web is often called “the best children’s book of all time,” and occupies a special place in the hearts of young and old alike.
Along with busloads of school children, Kelly and I saw the play Charlotte’s Web.
As a retired teacher of elementary kids, I love this story for many reasons. One of the reasons is I read it aloud to my class every year. Another reason is during my one year of homeschooling, I read it along with Trumpet of the Swan and Stuart Little to Walker during his first grade in school. All of these timeless stories were written by E.B.White and illustrated by Garth Williams.
If I can fool a bug… I can surely fool a man. People are not as smart as bugs.”Charlotte, the spider to Wilbur, the pig
I highly recommend you read these stories aloud to your children and grandchildren.
You should be able to find a copy in your local library where many locations offer free story times.
“Few people would guess that a pig and a spider could be best friends. In this story, not only are they best friends, but Charlotte, the spider saves Wilbur, the pig’s life. Charlotte takes a chance on Wilbur and goes on the most rewarding adventure of her life-friendship. And Wilbur, desperate for a friend, finds out that life is about more than just himself: it’s about helping those around you. Together, this unlikely duo changes the lives of every animal (and human) they meet.
Wilbur and Charlotte’s selflessness creates a better world. So does their bravery to be who they are. And their willingness to love each other unconditionally.
Take a chance on someone today. You may find that they’re terrific. Or radiant. Or humble. And they just might change your life.”
Director of the play, Charlotte’s Web, Barrett Guyton, Barter Theater
Do you remember The Family Circus syndicated comic strip created by cartoonist, Bil Keane? Originating in 1960, and one of my favorites, I remember running to the AJC newspaper to find it every Sunday. The cartoons without fail left my spirit warm.
During this tumultuous and troubled season across our globe today, we have to find a way to keep our sense of humor and our healthy well-being.
ALL you need is LOVE. But a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt.
Charles M. Schulz
Viewing a few Family Circus strips might help! You may not believe this, but many years ago, I collaged the front of our basement frig with Family Circus strips and they are still there today! It is fun to look at them again and again.
I hope you will enjoy them as much as our family has through the years.
What will you and I and our loved ones do in the days, weeks, and months ahead to maintain love and laughter in our moments?
Sorrows cannot all be explained away…In a life truly lived, grief and loss accumulate like possessions.” Stephan Kanfer
How do we describe grief? How do we express how much we miss someone’s presence in our days? Loss is an inevitable part of life, and grief is a natural part of the healing process. The reasons for grief are many, such as the loss of a loved one, the loss of health, or the letting go of a long-held dream. Dealing with a significant loss can be one of the most difficult times in a person’s life.
I can easily recall after my Mama passed on in October, 2006, there was a physical aching in my heart, a pain I had never experienced before. I knew then a little more about what grief was. When our much-loved nephew, Brad died in April, 2009, our family learned more about this process of grief. We held onto each other a little tighter after that. My Daddy went on to join Mama in November, 2013, so I have had a glimpse of what grief is about. Like you, I have lost friends who have meant the world to me. Some of you have lost a beloved spouse. Grief is something we would definitely never invite in, but something we are all called to experience at one time or another.
Even the saddest things can become, once we have made peace with them, a source of wisdom and strength for the journey that still lies ahead.” Frederick Buechner
Unlike many of you who are reading this, I have never walked through the loss of a child. I can only imagine that losing one of our children would be like losing a limb, or worse. That is where our dear friends, The Reads are today, on March 7, 2016. They are looking at the calendar, recognizing this date and marking the first anniversary of their son, Taylor’s passing at the young age of 23.
Taylor Heston Read will always be remembered as a kind, strong, athletic, funny, loving young man, and he will be missed forever. Taylor’s parents, five grandparents, friends and relatives, including his sister, Megan know they will see him again, as they look ahead with godly confidence of this truth.I miss Taylor, too! You see, Taylor’s parents and I first met when we were just starting college at Tennessee Tech University back in the 70’s. Kelly and I bonded quickly as ADPis and went on to stand alongside each other in our 1982 weddings, vacationed together and yes, raised our children together.
Taylor was a precious little brunette baby boy. A tall young man, I’ll always remember Taylor as a gentle giant, with a comforting smile. His many friends, both guys and girls, describe Taylor as a caring soul, as “the one who looked after me,” … a bridge over troubled water.
The remembrance of Taylor will forever kindle fondness, smiles, and pure love by so many of us still here on earth…
In response to Taylor’s passing, his family soon began to consider how they wanted to mark the memory of his life here while having a positive impact on their beautiful community of Abingdon, Virginia.
Before long, it became apparent that a shelter on the Virginia Creeper Trail would be designed by Taylor’s gifted sister, Megan. The construction began soon after.
~~~~~~~A Labor Of Love~~~~~~~
The first annual “Rails To River” bike ride fund-raiser for Taylor was scheduled for October 3, 2015. When the day arrived, all plans were in place…the t-shirts had been sorted, the BBQ lunch was simmering, and the weather in Virginia was trying to put a damper on the plans. Even a cold and rainy forecast didn’t stop the fifteen plus riders on the trail who made the 8 mile trek to Taylor’s Shelter for the very first time. A huge crowd turned out to support this family and the trail. The stormy weather couldn’t block the sun from popping out just in time for the dedication of this creative retreat, this refuge from the storms of life for generations to come.
Donny and I cannot wait for our next bike ride to Taylor’s Shelter over Easter Weekend, 2016!
How do we describe grief? I do not know, but I do know how to describe a response to grief. In one word, The Read Family has chosen to respond with HOPE. Rest In Peace, Taylor Heston Read, a life well lived.
In addition to knowing we will all go through grief, we also know that our time to die will come, as well. I read a great article published this past week, “On the Day I Die”, by, John Pavlovitz. Click here to read it.
What is it like to be ninety? Though my Daddy lived to be age 93, in my late fifties now, I honestly have no idea what it is like to be ninety years old…
I enjoyed talking to a friend of mine at a Christmas Open House all about the aging process. My friend, Gerry, who is in her seventies told me that an Orthopedic Surgeon friend of hers told her this: “If you wake up and you’re not in pain, you’re dead.” We had a good laugh over that and I have to admit I have repeated it a time or two for more chuckles. It’s a known fact that things tend to hurt more as we age.
Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom.
Psalm 90:12 NLT
As long as I am healthy, I hope to see my ninth decade. Even though I am not yet a Grandmother, that would be pretty cool to not only be a Grandma, but to also have a chance to be a Great-Grandma! Very few of us are blessed with this privilege. It is truly remarkable that George and Barbara Bush reached their 70th wedding anniversary earlier this month. That is a lot of living!
I recently ran across a list of 42 life lessons 90-year-old Regina Brett of Cleveland, Ohio said that life has taught her. While I don’t have the space to list them all, I picked some of my favorite lessons:
Life isn’t fair, but it’s still good.
When in doubt, just take the next small step.
Pay off your credit cards every month.
Cry with someone. It’s more healing than crying alone.
It’s okay to let your children see you cry.
Make peace with your past so it won’t screw up the present. Youth is the time to study wisdom, old age is the time to practice it.” Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Don’t compare yourself to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about.
If a relationship has to be secret, you shouldn’t be in it.
It’s never too late to be happy. But it’s all up to you and no one else.
Over prepare, then go with the flow.
What other people think of you is none of your business.
Time heals almost everything. Give time time.
Believe in miracles.
Growing old beats the alternative-dying young.
Your children get only one childhood.
If we threw all our problems in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we’d grab ours back.
No matter how you feel, get up, get dressed, and show up.
Life isn’t tied with a bow, but it is still a gift.