Nostalgic November

It’s been a trying last few weeks as I’ve been traveling a lot. I just finished up a spectacular elk hunt enjoying the solace of nature and returned home, reconnecting with the world.   While spending time hunting, on the job and with family, it has been exhausting to say the least.  Being pulled in many directions, I’ve found that I’ve not had the time to write or share posts, nor have any time to myself during these days but then realized that this is life. It doesn’t adhere to my anticipated plan. It doesn’t fit in the cookie cutter mold. There are sharp turns, steep hills, and at times I find myself going in reverse.   What in the world?  I’ve learned I’ve no choice but to embrace it.

With the recent passing of my beloved uncle and declining health of my father, the emotional roller coaster welcomes me. I’ve enjoyed reminiscing, laughing and crying, as the pendulum of feelings swings widely. Grieving our loved ones is so hard, whether their passing was expected or not, there is no easy way to say goodbye.

However, since Lydia passed away, and years progressed, I’ve been fine-tuned to seeking life’s blessings during hardships. Despite difficult circumstances, I know the darkest days will pass and the sun will shine again, all in its own time.

But that doesn’t make it any easier.  Life is so fragile and love is so powerful.  Fresh events of loss bring to the surface the true meaning of life. It makes us ponder why we are even here. What is our purpose? Why do some live longer than others? Why does life have to hurt so much?  How are we equipped to handle it all?

How fast these years pass.  It seems like only a few short years ago I was in college as a young, naïve lady who set out to conquer the world.  Fast forward 20+ years and here I am today, wiser beyond my years, living through the unimaginable.  So strange. No exactly the life I had planned for myself.

I still cannot believe its November already. This month is one that carries high emotional charges as Lydia’s birthday lands on or near Thanksgiving each year.  No matter how many years have passed, we bereaved parents will always have heavy hearts and endless tears during birthdays and holidays. Yes, even after ten years. Yikes!  It still is so hard for me to fathom that much time has passed since my darling daughter was here.

During November every year, I find myself craving connection with God, needing to read scripture to remind myself that an eternity awaits.  I find myself visiting the cemetery more often, finding comfort in the solace and presence of her grave.  I find myself fantasizing of those early years with her and imagining who she’d be today.  You will find endless drops of pure love descending down my cheeks at random moments, evidence of the hearts incredible strength and timeless devotion.

Much time is spent on wondering, fantasizing, and dreaming of those heavenly reunions- no pain, no sorrow, only pure joy and restoration. Talk about glory days! What a gift.

In the end, today is all we are ever really promised.  Remember, when fear knocks on your door, answer with faith.

On the journey with you~

P.S. Stay tuned. Lots of excitement brewing here and two special announcements coming this month!

 

 

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Sacred Words-The Sweeter Side of Grief

“If you know someone who has lost a child, and you’re afraid to mention them because you think you might make them sad by reminding them that they died–you’re not reminding them. They didn’t forget they died. What you’re reminding them of is that you remembered that they lived, and that is a great gift.” ~Elizabeth Edwards

The past two weeks I have received two heart stirring emails from people whose lives were touched by Lydia. Unexpected and completely random, I was caught off guard but in a good way. Today I wanted to share with you one that my aunt had sent a few days ago of her last day with Lydia, just a couple weeks before she died.

As I read her email, her vivid and picturesque descriptions made the pages come to life. I actually felt like I was reliving these last moments with her again.  Her quirky sense of humor, boisterous and sassy attitude, yet loving and gentle nature seeped through.  Smiles, coupled with a laugh and lots of hot tears appeared simultaneously.  Needless to say, this made my year.   What a gift.

Have you ever received letters or stories from others about your loved one?  Being on the receiving end, I know how valuable these sacred words are to a grieving parent.   We crave them. It’s like keeping that connection alive, to hear their name, and seeing how they touched another’s life.

So before you head off shopping, to the gym, or any other place I strongly encourage you to write those notes to hurting hearts, letting them know what their loved one meant to you. Stop hesitating and just do it-myself included. Think of the enormous impact you will make in the life of someone whose heart is full of sorrow.

The best gift we can give a grieving parent or any grieving heart, is to share those soul touching memories about loved ones.  This my friends, is the sweeter side of grief.

Here are beautiful words, etched with love from my aunt whom Lydia adored.  I hope you get to see her personality shine as much as I did.

~On the journey with you~

LYDIA GREER 2008
Oh to be five again…
            When we called ahead on Sunday, July 13th to let Lydia and family know that we were only 15 minutes away from arriving for our visit, Lydia and I agreed we’d start with a manicure. I had learned to keep a bottle of pink nail polish in the car because a few months previous we had a rainy day rendezvous at the gun show.  Wishing for some little girly-activities, we strolled table to table asking the vendors if anyone had nail polish, but no one had a display of beauty products.
             So on this summery day in Redmond, we arranged ourselves in the shade and brightened our fingertips with pink. Pink was THE color of that day…from her toes to her nose, I admired her pink shoes, pink shorts, pink sun top, and especially the pink roses in her cheeks. …and now we pampered our hands…all the while recalling the fun we had in deer camp with her hourly offer to freshen up my nail color. “Of course it needs that little chip re-painted”. Her funny-bone was delighted by talking her Dad, brother, uncles and Grandpas into having a bit of color on THEIR fingertips too! She loved her people.
            In a while, she joined the dinner preparations: setting the table just so, asking for help to turn the doorknob, “cause my arm doesn’t like to turn that way”, then shucking corn, snacking on cheese for the burgers and exclaiming “SIT BY ME! And then filling up on chocolate milk so she couldn’t get in one bite of her dinner…unswayed by predictions of night time hunger…she announced, “I’m full”
             The summer evening was toasty-warm for a stroll hand-in-hand around Uncle Danny’s neighborhood. “Let’s see if there is a house for sale and get one of those papers all about it. Let’s stop and visit everyone who gave me candy last Halloween. Let’s knock on the doors and ask each house if they’ve seen the dog on the poster that disappeared on the 4th of July. Let’s blow these dandelion tops and make a wish. Let’s wiggle through this fence and see what they’re building over there. Let’s go home and I’ll sing.”
            Returning to the yard and finding the guys sitting in lawn chairs visiting, she had a perfect stage. She plucked leaves from the big willow bush as “Tickets” to enter her theater and launched into her repertoire: Hannah Montana, High school Musical and her standard:  “…..I’m cool, I’m cool…Some people say I’m hot, but I’m coooool!” Her encore was a charade of animal actions and sounds as a quiz for the audience.
            Must she make time for a bath? Reluctantly departing to wash off the prickly grass of the outdoor stage she soon dashed back to report she had a little more time to visit ’cause  “Mom’s just laughing and amazed!! Danny’s gotta learn to clean the tub.”
            The next morning, we enjoyed breakfast out and once again I was honored with her wish that we could sit side by side. Ordering confidently, she subbed link sausage for bacon and announced, “yes, I eat the crusts” of the French toast I helped her cut.
              Afterwards, sending Daphne on her errand with the request for blue nail polish, Lydia explored our motel across the street and sat right up to the telephone to begin dialing her family.  Every number memorized for Grammies, aunties and cousins, she stayed in touch … if a phone was at hand, I learned she was ready to place a call. Since this time was pretend with phone cradled in her shoulder she listened, replying  “uh huh…uh huh…uh huh…” all the while taking copious notes.
            Back at the dining room table, drawing and visiting and tending to a pedicure, she pointed out her ruffled sun top for the day was a loaner from her friend…how nice to be the same size and share. I learned she had mastered the swimming strokes and “I don’t even need the noodle to hold me up now!” 
            Packing up to return home, we hugged goodbye, planning for another grand time together. Now, as I imagine God’s heavenly Welcoming Committee enlivened with the enthusiasm of Lydia, I must say it helps to feel good about arriving in heaven for our next Grand Time Together.  In her short five years, she learned to embrace us at a full run …her arms outstretched for hugs of joy. I know I wasn’t the only one she loved. It was her practice, and she made us all feel like a million dollars!
            Remembering her rosy cheeks which completed that snappy outfit of pinks clothes, today it seemed like pink roses were a good symbol of the delicate color and softness of Lydia’s happy face. 
            I watch roses grow from bud to full expansive bloom, bursting with beauty and then gone, the petals scattered away on breezes. I am sorry to see the flower go, but I know the petals will nourish the garden and help new beauty come to life. Lydia was a beautiful gift of God. She knew she was God’s child and that Jesus loved her. She delighted in doing the most important job God can give us…loving others. God bless her generous and accepting heart.
Auntie M’ loved Lydia…
LydiaHunter1

 

 

 

Cover image photo credit-Photo by Simon Rae on Unsplash

 

Faith, Grief, and Pass the Chocolate Pudding-Interview with Author Heather Wallace Rey

I am beyond thrilled to share with you all my interview with author Heather Wallace Rey.  In her most recent book, Faith, Grief & Pass the Chocolate Pudding, Heather shares intimately her journey through grief and reflections on her life since the passing of her father, offering insight and tips affecting a grieving heart.

“Grief is intensely personal, and every person is entitled to grieve their own way, in their own time.  I hope beyond hope that you never experience the level of stress while grieving that prompts your mind to wander separate of your body causing you to wear lingerie in public.  Unless public  humiliation is something that helps you cope.  In that case, have at it!!  I’ll let you borrow my robe.  Because of my own moments of public humiliation, I now think very carefully before even considering judging anyone else’s life or grief story. The past four years have made me much more capable of listening to the stories of others, without any judgement. Today, at the end of this book, I wish I could be writing a conclusion to grief.”

Her book is uniquely written and sprinkled with humor,  offering the reader an open and honest account of matters of the heart. Heather discusses many topics, shedding light on significant issues associated with grief, leaving your heart satisfied and encouraged.

Comical and uplifting, this book will be sure to comfort your soul and reassure you that you are not alone in your walk through grief.

Read on…..

What made you want to write this particular book?

I have always wanted to write a book, but – when it came to this particular book – I’m not sure I chose it.  It may seem strange but, in some way, this book chose me.  I actually tell a story in the book about a moment where I was grieving and went to a bookstore to find a book about grief that would make me laugh, and make me feel like I wasn’t the only person in the world that became crazy, due to grief.  I never found that book and, in talking with a friend, she suggested that maybe I couldn’t find the book I was looking for because that book was somewhere inside me.  In the scheme of things, I don’t think most authors – given the choice – would choose to write a book about grief.  I know I wouldn’t.  I just started writing everything down that happened with no real desire to get published – and took the book to Kinko’s and had it spiral bound, so I could give it to friends who were grieving.  The publishing part was just a happy accident that came after the fact.

What were the most challenging parts for you in writing this book?  

There were two really challenging parts of writing this book – the first was re-living some of the things that happened.  I wrote this book over a period of about 3 years, starting the week after my Dad passed away.  Some of the things that I wrote as I went along, came out very easily on paper right as they were originally happening.  Re-reading them, however, was a completely different experience.  There are things that are humorous, looking back, but there are also moments that are still so raw and hard to talk about that having to read and re-read them was a little gut-wrenching.  I actually put the book away for about 6 months, because it was just too hard to re-live it during certain times of my life.  The other really challenging part of writing this book was losing someone else I really loved during the process:  my business partner and co-author.  Grief brought us together and, ultimately, my grief and my pain and both of our stubbornness drove us apart.  Having a secondary loss of someone who has supported you and loved you through some of this process is something that I’ve read about, but it doesn’t seem quite as impossible as actually living through it in person.  Grief turned me upside down until my life was almost unrecognizable and just when I thought it was getting better, everything around me started crashing in.  In a time where I really needed to be my own hero, I just didn’t have the strength.  I relied on someone else to be my hero through grief – someone that was, himself, grieving, and that was really unfair to both of us.  What grief taught me was that a secondary loss brings back all of the pain of the first loss times ten and it was really hard to stick with the book throughout that secondary loss.

 

What do you want people to take with them from your book? How has your life changed since? 

The things I’d most like people to take away from my book are three-fold: First, I hope that my love for my Dad, my fond memories of him, and my co-author’s love for his brother, Jamie, and his fond memories of Jamie shine through.  Secondly, I really hope that through my book others are able to laugh a little – there are some parts of my grief that were really terrible but also kind of ridiculous and funny – and finally – I pray every day that every person who is experiencing grief always knows that even when they feel the most alone and the most crazy – they are neither alone nor crazy.

Since writing this book, I’ve spent a lot of time talking with others about grief, speaking to groups about grief, and telling my story.  Ultimately, I think I had to lose some part of myself in order to start to piece myself back together.  I relied on the strength of others to help me to learn to be brave and to be strong, and to tell my story without being ashamed of all that I went through.  Grief didn’t just re-define me – it helped me rebuild some parts of myself that had been broken even before I lost my dad.

 

How has your faith evolved throughout your life? How did impact your grief journey?

Up until the point where grief “broke me,” I have always considered myself a very faithful person.  There again, faith often came relatively easy to me – I was raised in a church, and I have worked on a church staff for most of my adult life.  I’m not sure that the concepts of God and faith were things that I ever questioned very much.  I believed because I was raised to believe.  Through grief, my faith has been tested in a number of situations and seemingly around every corner.  I think when you lose someone that is very close to you, it levels the playing field.  There are people who might say that because you earn your living at a church, they have expectations of you that have to do with faith.  There are people who expect that if you teach others about faith, that your faith is solid in some way they can’t understand.  Grief levels the playing field of faith – it can test your faith, no matter who you are or what you formerly believed.  What I learned is that working at a church didn’t better prepare me for a crisis of faith, any more than working at an airport, or a grocery store, or a real estate office.  I was subject to the same doubts about God and faith and loss that any other person would be.  I think that having a crisis of faith related to grief was even a little worse, because people so desperately needed me to continue to be faithful during my own grief, that I often felt like I was living a lie.  Grief made me more susceptible to being hurt by others who had expectations of what a “grieving Christian” should look like.  I think a grieving Christian who works at a church looks just like anyone else who’s ever been through grief.  Processing my grief through a lens of faith has just made it clearer that grief doesn’t care where you stand economically or socially or faithfully – it takes all those things about you that are the very worst and magnifies them by about a million.  My faith didn’t get me through grief – my faith pointed me in the direction of people that would help to make my grief more manageable.  I survived, and continue to survive, based on the really good and faithful servants that God has given me to walk this journey with.

 

Do you have a favorite inspirational quote you would like to share?

One of my favorite quotes in life is “What lies behind you and what lies before you are tiny matters compared to what lies within you.”  This is a Ralph Waldo Emerson quote that I have always loved, but has become especially poignant throughout the grieving process because I am a person who always believed that you could be defined by your past or present actions and grief has proven to me – over and over – that my past and present actions are just a miniscule part of the really important things that make up the “real me.”  Grief changed the way that I acted, some of the time, but it couldn’t take away all the things inside me that were really good – it just put some of them on hold for a little while.

What is your favorite memory of your father?

I have lots of favorite memories of my Dad, but some of my all-time favorite memories of him involve the “field trips” that we took together – some of them included my younger sisters as well, but some of them were special times that I shared just with him.  He took us to museums, to movies on Thanksgiving Day every year, to the Scottish games, to the Renaissance Festival (King Richard’s Faire), to parades, and encouraged our love of music, movies, and museum studies.

 

What, if anything, have you found to be helpful in your grieving over the years?

I have found a few things that have helped me through grief.  One is a group called “Faith and Grief” which is a faith-based support group with a scriptural model that is offered at a number of churches throughout the US.  (Their website is http://www.faithandgrief.org)  This group helped me find my voice, and helped me tell my story.  Another thing that has really helped is keeping a gratitude journal.  Making time to sit down every day for at least 5 minutes to write about all the things that I’m thankful for and taking that time to see all the blessings in my life makes such a big difference in how I view every day.   Another thing that has really helped me is being able to participate in a number of grief retreats: getting to meet new people and hear their stories and support them and have them support me has been so beneficial and such a great growing experience.  Mo-Ranch Conference Center in Hunt, Texas (near San Antonio) offers a number of these grief retreats.

 

 

For those new in their grief journey, what words of advice would you offer?

I’d like to give credit to my friend, Audrey Lanham, for a piece of advice that she shared, given to her by her stepmother while she was grieving.  Audrey told me that we should “treat ourselves like a baby bird” in the early stages of grief.  As I look back, I was terribly impatient with myself during the early stages of grief and I wanted every part of my heart and my soul to be fixed, right then.  I had impossible standards for where I wanted to be from day to day and I often didn’t give myself the grace or space to grieve when I needed to.  I think giving yourself grace is often the most difficult part.  For those new to grieving, I think the words “treat yourself like you would a baby bird” is one of the best pieces of advice anyone could offer.  Being gentle and kind and patient with yourself and giving yourself grace and space and allowing yourself to feel whatever you need to feel – giving yourself permission to fall apart when you need to isn’t a sign of weakness – it’s a way to rebuild your strength so you can “fly again” (or be yourself again) as soon as possible.

 

What will you be working on next?

I am currently working on writing a number of articles for magazines, and doing some speaking around the country, as well as doing some book signings around the Midwest for the remainder of 2017.  My next book, “Parent of the Year” is coming in December 2017.  You can find up to date information on where to hear me or where you can pick up copies of my books at www.passthechocolatepudding.com.

How can readers discover more about you and your work?

Website: www.passthechocolatepudding.com

Blogwww.lovenolie.com

Facebook:  andpassthechocolatepudding

Twitter:  reyfamilyseven

Linkedin:  Heather Wallace-Rey

Pinterest:   heatherrey

Book Links: www.griefdiaries.com (Co-Author:  Loss of a Parent)  (Author: Faith, Grief and Pass the Chocolate Pudding)

Goodreads: Author Page – Heather Wallace-Rey

 

Heather Wallace Rey

 

Thank you Heather, for sharing your heart with us and your deep compassion for helping others.