In Loving Memory of my Aunt Mary

There was another passing of a loved one in my family recently. It was my Aunt Mary, my mother’s younger sister, and last of the siblings in their family. My aunt was included in my published story, “Walking My Mother Home,” in Journeys to Mother Love. She loved my writing. It served to bring us closer together. So I thought it would be fitting to write a piece in her memory.

The 5 siblings: JoAnn (Mom), Mary, Henry, Helen and Ginny, 1974.

Déjà Vu

After my Aunt Mary passed away, I devoted two weeks of my life back home in the St. Louis area with her family. Previous to that, I was unaware that her health had been declining. When I heard of her condition and that she was put on hospice, I immediately called her husband, my Uncle Pete. I felt that all too familiar pull to be there—to be by her bedside, to pray with her and for her—and to help in any way I could.

My initial help was limited to calls to the funeral home and cemetery. When I talked with my uncle, I could tell that my aunt’s time was extremely limited. I wanted to jump on a plane and be there. I began the online search for flights and other travel arrangements. It felt like déjà vu—not knowing when to leave or how long to stay—just like when my mother passed.

I waited and prayed for two days.

Then I got the news that my aunt would probably pass in the next 24 hours. I knew I wouldn’t make it back in time so we prayed together. Again, just like when my mother died, my uncle put the phone on speaker. I asked my Uncle Pete and his son Mark, my cousin, to lay their hands on and over my aunt.

We communicated our love to her and asked the Lord to release her from her pain. My Aunt Mary had been unresponsive just prior to our prayer. But then Mark said she squeezed his hand while I prayed. It comforted us to know that she heard our prayer. My Aunt Mary died a few hours later.

I took the red-eye flight to St. Louis that night. The next few days were a blur of appointments and decisions related to the funeral. Both of my parents were cremated, so I hadn’t been down the road of a full-blown funeral and burial before. God was with us as all the pieces fell into place in three days.

One of the things I offered to do was buy the clothes that my aunt would be buried in. She was a very petite woman, much different than myself, but I knew she had a flare for fashion like me and my mother. There were so many cute options for a size 4! I was thrilled to find just the right outfit to bring her back to life, so to speak—in a vibrant coral dress and sweater combination with matching jewelry.

Another Eulogy

When the funeral home found out I was a writer, they asked me to write her obituary. I kindly agreed. I also created her funeral program and offered to do her eulogy. I stayed up late the night before the funeral prayerfully writing it. (More déjà vu and preparation from my mother’s passing.)

I’m honored to stand here today and share a few words about my Aunt Mary–something I never saw myself doing. I didn’t have the benefit of getting to spend my youth living near her and my Uncle Pete. So I didn’t know her well back then.

I have more childhood memories with her sisters, my Aunt Helen and Aunt Ginny. However, I did have the sense as a child that my mother JoAnn and Mary were closer to each other than to their other sisters. That could be because they were closer in age. But as I reflected about who Mary was to me and my memories of her, I realized she was very much like my mother.

Mary was a vibrant attractive woman. Like my mother, she had a flare for fashion and other feminine things like cosmetics. (I say this because I’ve never been like that, but I noticed.) I have this vision of her as a blond bombshell, sort of like Marilyn Monroe. You can see it in some of the early pictures of Mary and Pete. She was a beautiful woman.

Her beauty didn’t go unnoticed by my Uncle Pete either. A few days ago, he told me a cute story about how he met his wife. He said he met Mary at a night club at Scott Air Force Base over 50 years ago. She was out with friends. He saw her walk by him and he knew he wanted to dance with her. So Pete got up the nerve to ask her to dance to a slow song. She agreed. He said he knew then that she was the one.  There was no one else for him.

I only met my aunt and uncle a few times when I was young. When my Uncle Pete was stationed in Alaska my aunt and uncle visited us in Portland, Oregon on their drive to their new home in Anchorage. I think the next time I saw them was after my parents divorced. My mom and us kids were living back in Illinois. I was in high school. They made the rounds visiting family with their young son Mark. A few years later, they were permanently transferred back to Illinois. Unfortunately, I went away to college the same year, so our paths didn’t cross much when Mark was growing up.

When I got married and had kids of my own, Mary and I grew closer, although we were still separated by a great distance because my husband and I lived in the Seattle area. I started the family tradition of sending out an annual Christmas letter and having a family portrait done. Every year she would send me a Christmas card, write a personal note and send some gift money for the kids.

I brought those Christmas cards with me and would like to give you a glimpse into her heart–the heart of a mother, a sister, an aunt.

I tearfully read a few years’ worth of her annual notes to me. My aunt and I both shared a love for Major League Baseball and her notes often included talk about the St. Louis Cardinals or the Seattle Mariners. Some of her notes even mentioned people who were in attendance at the funeral.

Then as I re-entered my mother’s life before she passed 7 years ago, I grew closer to Aunt Mary. You can also tell that from her notes to me. We kept writing at Christmas, but when my writing and publishing started to take off, I would send her paper copies of my writings. She played a big part in healing my relationship with my mother, most notably responding to my plea to go see her in the hospital after her stroke in July 2009. Mary came back with a good report of my mother’s condition. She also prayed over her. I believe God answered her prayer and kept my mother alive long enough for me and my siblings to see her again and to reconcile.

My aunt’s Christmas notes during that time often referenced my mother and my visits back home to see my mom or Mary herself. Reading those annual notes from her was like reliving those visits again. As painful as it was to share those experiences again, it helped me to face going through the same situation with my aunt’s passing.

My aunt praying for my mother.

It felt so familiar to me, yet so different. The events and the decisions on this trip were much more complicated than my mother’s death. Although I wasn’t solely responsible for these decisions, I was helping my uncle and cousin carry the burden.

What was familiar was how God showed up in so many ways. I felt lifted up, confident and equipped to walk with them through their grief and to look at another layer of my own inner healing work.

I think Mary sort of came to adopt me like a daughter to some degree. I never really had a mother-daughter relationship due to my own mother’s mental illness. I did welcome the rare occasions when Mary and I would talk. And I regret not being more available to her as the years passed.

I guess that leads me to why I came. Mary held a special place in my heart. I didn’t have to pretend to be someone I was not around her. We could talk about things at a deeper level. As I got my own emotional and spiritual healing, I was able to more fully understand the complexity of her life and the sacrifice she made for her family. It gave me compassion and empathy for her.

So when I heard of the decline in her health, I couldn’t help but come. I wanted to be able to give back one last time to Mary and for Mary, in a meaningful way. She deserves that. I wanted her to finish well.

I was scheduled to fly back home the day after the funeral, but couldn’t bear to leave. I stayed another week with my family to help them as they started the transition to a new season of their lives without their wife and mother.

For Mary and for God

I’m back home now, but my memories of that trip and time spent with my family linger in my mind. At 88 years old, my uncle relied heavily on me. We had several bittersweet conversations. My aunt and uncle were married for almost 51 years. Along with their special needs son, the three were pretty inseparable.

Visiting my mother’s gravesite on her 87th birthday.

When I was with them, I felt a special bond to them and had the confidence and strength to pour into their lives. I couldn’t stop to think about all the work, the decisions, and the seemingly impossible task ahead.

We often prayed together during the trip. I openly shared about God and comforted them in their grief. There were times when I felt Mary’s presence or could hear her voice saying my name, “Ardis Ann.” At one point my Uncle Pete told me that I was sent by his wife and by God. Together we wept. These are the memories I cling to now.

I don’t fully understand why God wired or equipped me to come alongside my uncle and cousin like he did (and continues to do). I trust it is the next step of my own healing process as well as theirs. The Lord seemed to confirm that by burying my aunt just a few spaces away from where my mother and other family are buried (and it was not prearranged).

I cannot urge you enough that if you haven’t done so, please make your burial and end of life wishes known to your family. Prearrange as much as you can, especially if you want to have a full funeral with a visitation, burial, etc. The decisions and costs are huge. It is a big burden to the family to address this in their time of grief.

I am grateful that I could do this for my uncle and cousin, and ultimately for Mary. Just like my mother, my Aunt Mary is a part of me. I look forward to seeing her again soon. With the Hope of Christ and the Resurrection Power of Easter, I know this is true.

Rest in peace, Aunt Mary.

A Glimpse of Eternal Rewards on Earth

We’ve all heard someone say “you can’t take it with you” referring to either our money or our possessions when we die. Or maybe that is your own personal philosophy and serves as a justification to spend your money unwisely.

We also know that accumulating a big bank account does not guarantee a place in heaven, and it doesn’t assure us rewards in heaven either. For Jesus tells us, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 19:24)

heaven-rewards

What are Eternal Investments?

Christians all want eternal rewards in heaven. But how do we invest eternally while we are still here in the physical world?

In Matthew 6:19-21, Jesus tells us: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Jesus is telling us that our treasures in heaven will be based on the intangible things, the things that spring from our heart. If you have money to give, then by all means give generously to charity. God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7). It isn’t just money, but it is the giving of our time and our talents.

Relational Investments

I personally make deposits into my heavenly bank account by investing in relationships. That is not my motivation, but it is where my heart is—in deep conversation—the kind that brings healing and hope to others on their journey.

I recently got a glimpse into how I think an entire profession sows their seeds into heavenly treasures and gets to see the fruit in the here and now as well. No, it’s not with pastors, priests, or those called into Christian ministry.

teacher-apple

It is teachers.

Teachers invest in their students in so many intangible ways. You cannot hold an education, although you can hold a diploma. You can also see the tangible awards, trophies, and the certificates of achievement. However, the real fruit of an education is the result that it bears from hours and hours of learning. It is the knowledge and experience that their students integrate into their lives.

How and when do teachers get that physical glimpse of their eternal rewards here on earth? They get it each time a student recognizes their teacher for their investment in the student’s life. It’s particularly prevalent at the end of the school year when a student presents a gift to their teacher. I think the real rewards are reaped though when a student returns years later to visit their alma mater.

Examples of Eternal Rewards Reaped on Earth

When my son graduated from high school earlier this year, I delighted in hearing about how he gave some of his teachers those returns on their investment. One day he stood up in class and shared how much his teacher meant to him. Her yearbook message to him confirmed how much it meant to her.

My son & his band teacher at their final junior high school concert.

My son & his band teacher at their final junior high school concert.

Then after he graduated, he went back to his junior high school and visited his favorite teacher. She had mentored and encouraged my son’s love for music. After eight years, he is still playing the flute.

We don’t always know the impact we may have on someone in this lifetime. I do believe that when I get to heaven, I will find out. I will meet people I don’t even know who were indirectly affected by something I said, wrote, or did. As I sow seeds of righteousness into my sons and how I raise them, I expect I will also meet future generations of my family who benefited from those investments of my time and energy.

What are you doing to sow seeds into eternity? You don’t have to be a teacher, a writer, or a mother. You just have to be open to letting the Holy Spirit nudge you to reach out to others.

A Tribute to Mom, Part 2 – Her Final Gift

This week marks the 3-year anniversary of my mother’s passing. Last year I shared her eulogy on my blog. It continues to be the post with the most hits (interest). I am sharing it again to commemorate the sacrifice my mother’s life became for me. May it inspire you to turn your healing into hope.

Making Me Bold

When I started writing for a public audience, I knew that many of my initial writings and journal would potentially become published.  They were the basis for much of what I wrote in my story “Walking My Mother Home”, published in “Journeys to Mother Love”.  One year after the acceptance of that story by Cladach Publishing, and to mark the anniversary of my mother’s passing,

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How Do You Invest in People?

It all started in the summer of 2010.  I had just finished a Beth Moore Bible study, was basking in the sun on the deck out back and pondering my next season of ministry options. My passion was facilitating spiritual growth and recovery groups at my church, but had taken some time off during my son’s senior year in high school.  As I sat in the sun and prayed, I asked God for direction on how to serve. He clearly ‘said’, it seemed, to invest in people.

How do you invest in people?

How do you invest in people? One person at a time.

Invest in People?

“Hmmm,” I thought, “what does that mean?”  Within a few days I had my answer.  It came during a Skype with Pedro, the Spanish exchange student who stayed with us earlier that summer.  He told me that his grandmother had just been diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor and only had a few months to live.  With my mother being on hospice care and living day to day with the aid of a feeding tube, I sensed that I was to come alongside Rosa and support her through this painful period in her life.

I still wasn’t very sure how to do that—especially since we didn’t speak the same language—and I was struggling with my own mother’s prolonged illness.  Yet that connection led to the peaceful passing of our mothers—just three weeks apart, the beautiful bonding of two hearts across the world, and eventually the publishing of my story, “Walking My Mother Home”, in Journeys to Mother Love.

Over the last two plus years I’ve had to let go of the comfort of serving in an organized ministry role in favor of more one on one time connecting with people.  It is the continuation of my ‘invest in people ministry’.  Last week I was reminded of just how unexpected and profound those encounters can be.

A chance meeting in my hometown

A chance meeting in my hometown

A Chance Meeting

For this particular meeting, I was again basking in the sun, but this was at a nearby country club. I was with a woman I met two months ago at the marriage workshop my husband and I attended in California.  Her brother had suddenly passed away and she was in town for the memorial service.  The service was over and we stole some time away to reconnect, encourage and pray for one another.

What struck me was how God had orchestrated this ‘chance’ meeting in my hometown and how fortunate I was to be able to be there for her.  I didn’t have to ask a boss for time off.  (And I’m sure it would’ve been frowned upon by an employer.)  I did have to make a choice to delay some promotional work, but it was well worth the investment of my time. (For more about this chance meeting and how God’s hand was all over it, check out “Filling the Jar With Rocks”, on the Journeys to Mother Love blog.)

The R.O.I. points to heavenly rewards.

The R.O.I. points to heavenly rewards.

What’s the R.O.I?

I always find that my people investments have a two-fold benefit.  They serve to encourage and support the other person, and they also provide an intangible return to me.  In other words, it undoubtedly blesses both of us in some unexpected or profound way.  And ultimately they create a big R.O.I. (return on investment), not just in our day to day lives, but in the heavenly realm as well.

Just like any other investment decision there are risks associated with it—the biggest I think is rejection.  But I’m willing to step out of my comfort zone and take those risks instead of living with regrets.

After two years of heeding to those ‘investment’ nudges from God, I strongly encourage others to be on the lookout for those same kinds of encounters.  We may never know the R.O.I., but I believe there is a banker up above who is keeping track.

What are you doing to invest in people? I’d love to hear your story.

This post is listed on Christian Mommy Blogger/Fellowship Fridays and Missional Women/Faith Filled Friday.

A Letter to My Mom

Letter writing is a great way to work through some of our past hurts. Sometimes the recipient of the letter doesn’t even have to receive it. It can just be for our own healing. Whether they receive it or not, the key is letting go of an expected outcome and allowing God to work in the process.

Journeys To Mother Love

Reading each of the stories in “Journeys to Mother Love” gave me a glimpse into the lives and pain of eight other women who have allowed Christ to bring healing into their hearts. I love reading stories like these because they impart hope and inspiration that each of us can connect with or apply to our lives.

One of my takeaways was from the story written by Verna Hills Simms, “Take Care of Your Mother.” I was touched by how she writes a letter to her deceased mother every year on her mother’s birthday. I thought it was a wonderful idea, and decided to do the same thing. With the anniversary of my mother’s passing a few weeks ago, I chose to do it in honor of that occasion.

Dear Mom,

It has been two years since the day the Lord took you home to be with Him. I still…

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A Tribute to Mom, Part 3 – The Music & the Musician

My mother, JoAnn, loved music and gave me a love for it as well.  Neither one of us could read music or play an instrument, but we both had large phonographic record collections (ouch, that dates me).  We also love to dance and sing, although I reserve those times for Sunday morning worship (when I can bury my voice in the crowd) or in the privacy of my own home.

When Pedro, the Spanish young man mentioned in “Walking My Mother Home”,  started playing the piano in our home, it awakened in me my buried love of the same kinds of music that my mother loved, soundtracks from films such as “The Sound of Music” and “The Sting”, to name a few.  Unbeknownst to me, Pedro was interspersing some of his own original piano compositions as well.

Phonograph record & turntable

Phonograph record & turntable

In January 2011, one month before my mother died, Pedro surprised my family by sending us a video of “Seattle”, a song he wrote and dedicated to us.  That was the first I knew of his composing.  This led to my taking Pedro into a recording studio for his 18th birthday to produce his first CD, “Introducing Pedro González Arbona“.

Pedro has become quite an accomplished and prolific composer over the past two years.  He has composed dozens of songs and his music is now available online.  (If you regularly follow my blog, this is not news to you.)  What is news though is that Pedro’s music was recently noticed by a Spanish film production company who has hired him to compose a score for a short film.

“Walking My Mother Home” Soundtrack

Since Pedro’s desire is to compose movie scores, it is only natural that he would compose music that goes along with the story between our families.  He has composed two beautiful songs, “JoAnn’s Song” and “Ardis’s Song”, which I have made into short videos.  The videos (click the links below) compliment my story, “Walking My Mother Home”, published in Journeys to Mother Love.

  • JoAnn’s Song:  The story of the three trips back home to St. Louis to see my mother.
  • Ardis’s Song:  The story of my mother’s funeral ending with my revelations and identity breakthrough.
Pedro rests at the 9-foot Steinway, The Piano Studio, Seattle, July 2011.

Pedro rests at the 9-foot Steinway, The Piano Studio, Seattle, July 2011.

Pedro’s music has become an integral part of my life since my mother died two years ago.  Not only has he written songs for me and my mother, he has also written tributes to my recently deceased father (Van’s Requiem-click link to listen) and Carmen, his grandmother (Bubu-click link to listen), who passed away a few weeks before my mother.

The Fruit of My Labor

It a tremendous gift to watch this young man’s musical talent bloom and grow.  It was fertilized in my home over two years ago.  Like investing in Rosa, Pedro’s mother, as we prepared for the passing of our mothers, I also invested in Pedro.  Both of these people investments have born great fruit.  They have transformed my heart.  And now JoAnn and Carmen are dancing to a new beat together in heaven.

Someday Pedro’s music will be on the big screen.  I’ll be there to applaud his debut with eyes beaming and tears streaming.  Until then, I’m learning to be content in receiving electronic music files of his compositions and partnering with him on his music dreams from 5,300 miles across the world.

If you enjoyed Pedro’s music, please help this aspiring young international artist build an audience and get noticed by clicking the link to like his Facebook page, “Pedro González Arbona”, or share a comment below about his music or the videos.

A Tribute to Mom, Part 2 – Her Final Gift

When I started writing for a public audience, I knew that many of my initial writings and journal would potentially become published.  They were the basis for much of what I wrote in my story “Walking My Mother Home”, published in Journeys to Mother Love.  One year after the acceptance of that story by Cladach Publishing, and to mark the anniversary of my mother’s passing, I have decided to publically share her eulogy (unedited) as I gave it two years ago today.

It is longer than my normal blog posts, but I hope you’ll indulge me this sentimental opportunity to more publically honor my mother for the sacrifice her life became so that I would be free from the legacy of mental illness.  It was her final gift to me and for that I am incredibly grateful.

Giving the eulogy Mom's Memorial Service, February 2011.

Giving the eulogy Mom’s Memorial Service, February 2011.

And These Were the Words I Spoke

When I think about how my mom impacted my life and the legacy she left me, a variety of things come to mind, some more significant than others.  They have all made me the woman I am today.

I’ll start by sharing a little bit about my favorite times with my mother.  I have many pleasant childhood memories of us living in the Pacific Northwest.  I fell in love with that part of the country as a child and returned to it a few years after I got married.  It has been my home ever since.

When I was young, my family had a trailer and we spent most of our summer weekends at a beautiful state park in Western Washington where I learned how to swim.  After we moved to Portland, we would take the trailer to the Oregon coast.  This is where I hope to scatter her remains.

I have many pleasant memories of her taking us to the beach or to the pool while my father and brother John were out on the boat.  My favorite meal on those trips was always the fresh fried Rainbow Trout.  As an adult I have visited these beautiful places with my children.  Unfortunately, we don’t fish or camp, but I want them to sense the beauty of these majestic places.  Thank you, Mom, for those joyful memories.

My mom gave me my sense of style—always looking for a trinket to accessorize an outfit or to decorate my home.  When her wardrobe turned to hospital type gowns I bought her some scarves to accessorize them so she could have something feminine and special to show off her beauty and individual style.  And today one of those scarves is adorning the flowers.

She also gave me my love of photographs.  I have about 95 pictures lining both sides of the hallway in my home—each school picture of my kids and various family or vacation photos.  I love to take pictures and don’t go very far without my camera.  In fact, my favorite gift to give or receive is a photograph.  I think this ties in well with the sensitive side that I got from my mother.  I used to think I was too sensitive, but now I know that God uniquely wired me this way and it is a gift—something I share with my mother.

Final Remains

Keepsake with final remains.

The most significant impact my mom had on me was instilling in me the love of Jesus.  She was a practicing Catholic and took us to mass and catechism classes every Sunday.  As a young child, I don’t think I enjoyed attending the mass very much.  It seemed long and boring.  I didn’t understand it.  I do have fond memories though of the church changing to a ‘folk mass’ format during those years and really liking that.

When my parent’s marriage started to deteriorate, I also fondly remember the priest, Father Bertram, from the parish taking special interest in us kids.  He would take us out roller skating or to the carnival.  He made us feel very loved.

I left the Catholic Church as a teen and had many years when my faith was pretty non-existent.  Throughout those years, my mom would send me letters with her prayers for me and my family.  All of those prayers were answered when I found my way back to the Lord about 12 years ago.

Today I am forever grateful to her for planting those seeds of faith in me and not giving up on me.  I have a passion for Christ and His ability to transform us if we surrender to His will.  Thank you, Mom.  It is because of your faithfulness that I will join you someday in eternity.

Lastly, I want to share with you my gratitude to God for how he so perfectly ordained the last 18 months of my mother’s life.  My mother had a major stroke that left her partially paralyzed and barely able to speak.  It was a miracle that she survived that stroke.  I believe it was the intercessory prayer of my Aunt Mary, my mother’s sister, that kept her alive so I could see her again.

Since that time we made some very difficult decisions including the decision to put her on a feeding tube.  There were many times that I questioned that decision.  Thankfully though that decision was what opened up the opportunity for me and my brothers, John and Glen, to all see my mom.  We had that family reunion in December 2009.  I have been blessed with the opportunity to see my mom three times since that stroke.  Each time I was able to serve her and love on her in a way that I had never been able to in the past.  These trips were incredibly difficult for me, yet extremely rewarding and joyful at the same time.

Then six months ago, my family opened our home to an exchange student from Madrid.  Our families became fast friends and like family too.  Shortly after Pedro returned to Spain, he found out that his grandmother was dying.  His mother and I have been supporting each other and praying for each other and our mothers ever since.  Even though we don’t speak the same language we do serve the same God.

Pedro’s grandmother passed away 3 weeks ago.  Since Pedro and his family are Catholic, I scheduled a mass to be said for his grandmother.  I also had a mass said for my mother about two weeks ago.  Then a few days ago at the nursing home, someone shared with me, someone who knew her well, how my mother’s countenance changed to a more peaceful state about two weeks ago.  I firmly believe that God answered those prayers.

Cemetary burial of cremated remains. Mom’s final gift to me – freedom of the legacy of mental illness.

At that time, I was also praying that God would make it very clear to me when to return to see my mother—regardless of the outcome.  The time I spent ministering to Pedro’s family throughout their mourning process was really God’s perfect preparation for my mother’s passing.  It wasn’t just what I needed; it was what my mother needed to go in peace.

I’ve been spending time in Catholic mass the last few weeks, lighting candles and shedding tears.  While my heart’s desire may have been to be with her one last time while she was alive, and specifically when she passed, it wasn’t meant to be.  I could chose to be angry at God for that, but instead, I am grateful for the wonderful visits I had with my mom and grateful that I was able to just hop on the plane regardless and honor my mom this one last time.  I praise God for this opportunity, for the strength that He has given me to get through these days and that my mother is now in heaven with Carmen, Pedro’s grandmother.  They are both at peace.

Living Out My New Identity

Giving that eulogy in front of a room full of people I barely knew or didn’t know at all was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life.  But like answering the call and writing my manuscript, I knew I had to do it.  It was an act of obedience.

It was a painful process to return home and integrate these new identity revelations into my life.  I accepted the uniqueness that God gifted me with and started seeing the world through the new lens of healing and with hope for the future.  Gone was the fear that I was mentally ill.  Today I am still grounded in my identity and uniqueness and don’t shy away from expressing my sensitivity or my faith.  This blog is one of the fundamental ways in which I maintain that voice.

While I’ve gotten used to being vulnerable in recovery circles and on my blog, it feels pretty risky to share my mother’s eulogy online.  So, if you got this far in the post, I hope you’ll take a moment to ‘like’ this post or share any comments below.  And if your relationship with your mother needs repairing, just remember that it is never too late for reconciliation and forgiveness.  Just pray and partner with God.  He will give you the strength and courage to do it.  (Philippians 4:13).

A Tribute to Mom, Part 1 – Answering the Call to Write

Today marks the second anniversary of my mother’s passing and with it come the bittersweet memories of the events that led to her death.  My healing took a huge step forward the days immediately following her passing.  The identity revelations and significance of that healing were painstakingly shared in my mother’s eulogy.  (See Part 2 of this series to read more.)

While flying home later that day, the Lord nudged me to start writing about all of these miraculous things.  And so my manuscript, “Walking My Mother Home”, published in Journeys to Mother Love, was born that day in my journal on the flight home from St. Louis.

My Mom, circa 1955

My Mom, circa 1955

Fast forward one year later to January 2012.  When my grief was still fresh, I wrote and submitted my manuscript to Cladach Publishing.  As a new writer, I had many doubts about my ability to write that piece. Yet I knew when I submitted the manuscript that this story had to be told.  I released the outcome of that submission, as I had the timing of my mother’s death the year before.

Confirmation of the Call 

The day I received notice from Cladach Publishing that my story was accepted was like a kiss from heaven above and confirmation of the call to write.  The timing was perfect, January 30th—sandwiched between the anniversaries of both Rosa’s and my mother’s passings.  It was a gift from God to be able to honor our mothers in this poignant way with the publishing of our story.

I never dreamed any of these things were possible.  In fact, as I prepared for my mother’s passing, one of the main things I somewhat selfishly desired was for my life to get back to normal.  Earlier this week while in a period of self-care and reflection, it all seemed to hit me, and I let the tears flow.  The death of my mother brought nothing close to normalcy in my life.  I was radically transformed from the inside out.  My family and I have both had to adapt to these changes.  Quite honestly, as glamorous as it may seem at times, it hasn’t been easy.

A New Normal

I have accepted that the writing, the speaking, the sharing of my story and my Spanish connection are part of my new normal.  It was a gift that I was open to receiving when I released my mother’s life to the Lord two years ago.  So I blindly answered the call to write in honor of my mother and in obedience to Him.

My Mom, a silver haired beauty.

My Mom, a silver haired beauty.

I never take for granted that the Lord put all these steps in motion on my journey.  He placed the desire to write on my heart many, many years ago.  When the timing was right, He gave me a story that would touch the lives of others in similar situations.  I have received many comments and feedback on how this story (and the book in general) has touched people’s lives.  When the times are rough, that is what I remember most.  It reminds me that God is using my pain for His glory.

Whether our stories are publically shared in print or privately amongst friends, our stories of faith are a gift from God.  Be ready to share your story of healing, never forget, and watch God redeem it.  You never know how He will use it or when.

Saying Goodbye to My Father, Part 2 – Relationship Healing

My father and I had several memorable conversations over the last few years as I tried to prepare myself for his passing.  My parents divorced when I was nine.  My mother, two brothers and me moved 2000 miles away so we could be near my mother’s family.  My contact with my father was very limited after that day.  My husband and I moved back to the Pacific Northwest many years ago and started to have more regular contact with him.  Even as an adult, I still longed for his acceptance and love for me.  I knew I had that as I watched him leave this earth last week.

It was a painful and surreal experience to watch my father pass away before my very eyes.  My mother passed away a year ago.  I had a strong desire to be there when she passed, but it wasn’t meant to be.  I had no such expectations or hopes with my father.  Interestingly enough, the emotional healing I received as a result of my mother’s passing was what I needed to help me prepare for my father’s passing.

It was a long road to this place of peace between us.  I’ve done a lot of emotional and spiritual healing work over the last ten years and am a strong advocate for Christian 12-step programs, like Celebrate Recovery, that helped me to face my brokenness and to forgive.  My relationship with Christ gave me the strength and courage to journey into the painful places that I needed to deal with in order to free myself from the unmet expectations I still carried with me.  In doing so, I learned to love my father as he was—with all of his imperfections.

Except for reading my mother’s eulogy and memorial program from a year ago, my father had not seen any of my writing or knew of my desire to write.  I visited him in February shortly after my first manuscript was accepted by Cladach Publishing in the compilation Journeys to Mother Love.  I feared that he wouldn’t live long enough to see it in print, so I wanted him to know about this story.  Even though it was difficult for him to read or to hold his concentration for very long, he asked to read it.  I was shocked when he sat at the computer with its enlarged print and read the whole story in one sitting.  “Very, very good writing,” he said.  His words were a precious gift.

Last picture with my father, April 2012.

Then a few months later when I needed help with more information for the final edits, he filled in some of the gaps in my memory.  Those edits were accepted in the final proof of the manuscript hours before rushing to be by his side in the hospital at 2 AM.  My story, “Walking My Mother Home,” about the healing I received as I prepared for my mother’s passing, was the topic of our final conversation together.  He agreed to tell my mother “hello” when he got to heaven.  And he agreed to tell her I was ok and that I love her.  I was also able to thank him for his help with the manuscript.

My conversations with my father after that were brief in nature and geared toward his health care.  Our final private time together was in my brother’s home the following day.  He was resting in his new recliner.  I sat at the desk next to him writing his eulogy on my laptop.  Hours later he passed away.

I never did finish writing his eulogy.  In the days that followed his passing, my time was torn between family obligations and other preparations.  I gathered my thoughts though and jotted down some notes.  I trusted that the Holy Spirit would give me the right words to say.

The hours leading up to his memorial, I was stressed with last minute logistics.  I was nervous too.  I’ve spoken at church functions and shared my recovery testimony several times, but except for my husband and my younger brother, my family had never heard me speak.  This was a whole new arena to step out of my comfort zone.

Strangely enough though, as I stood in front of family to share the final reflections that I felt God led me to say about my father and his legacy, I was in total peace.  The healing I received with my mother’s passing the year before made me whole enough to face this new challenge.  God had miraculously connected the timing and significance of these two events.

I know that my true identity is ultimately in Christ.  But for me and the orphaned spirit I often felt throughout my life, I can now see my additional identity as a woman who was uniquely loved by two very different parents, each with their own brokenness and burdens.  They both left me with a legacy of healing.  And for that I am eternally grateful.

  • WELCOME to my site!

    I'm an author, writer, speaker, mentor & mom. I've struggled to find my voice all my life as I lived in the shadows of a mother with mental illness. Thankfully that was not the legacy that she handed down to me. It took a lot of recovery and deep healing work to rise above it.

    I am thankful to God for Making Me Bold in the process. Now I use my writing and speaking voice to help others on their journey to turn healing into hope.

  • Returning to Spain

    Arrival on Spanish SoilApril 29th, 2018
    Vamos a España!
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