A song for my heart


“Sing hymns and psalms to the Lord with praise in your hearts.” Ephesians 5:19 GNT

I was in the throes of deep grief, having lost my firstborn son to suicide just a few months before. Fall colors were in full swing. Everyone but me, it seemed, was eagerly anticipating family gatherings for Thanksgiving. How could any holiday be a reason to celebrate ever again? I could not yet accept the reality that one chair would always be empty.

I wasn’t the only one on a grief journey. My husband lost his son. My “baby” lost his older brother. Extended family lost a nephew and grandson. I was slowly learning that we cannot combine our grief. We each have a unique loss and must walk our grief journey in the solitude of the heart.

It was a break from the heaviness of grief when my youngest came from the deep South to spend a weekend with us. We were delighted. It was good see him. He had just relocated before his brother died, and hadn’t started his new job when he got the tragic news. When he returned home to begin his job, we knew he would have to “hit the ground running,” since he was already behind schedule before his first day. We were eager to find out how he liked his new position and the new life he was carving out for himself.

Being a weekend, we went to church as is our custom. My son came with us. It warmed my heart to look down the pew at his face smiling back at me. Never mind the flip flops, so commonly worn year around in his beach-y state, and so different from the sturdy shoes we wear up North as summer gives way to fall. Seeing flip flops on his feet made me smile.

It seemed rather strange behavior when our son pointed to his dad’s shoe, and mimed his desire for his dad to remove his shoe and pass it down to him. Dad complied. Son tried on the shoe, checked the fit, then took it off and handed it back. Was this a new ritual he had picked up down South? It was odd behavior, but we were in church. I could satisfy my curiosity with a question about it later.

When it was time for special music, I was curious as to why my son stood up, walked to the end of the pew, and strode up front in his flip flops. What was happening? When he took the microphone and background music began to play, it all became clear why he had driven all those miles. My son had traveled such a long way to see us and gift his mother with a special song, sung just for me.

I don’t even remember the name of the song he sang. I was caught between choking back sobs and smiling from ear to ear. My son, without many words about losing his brother, was singing his heart out to God and to me. He was undoubtedly pouring out his love for us, as well as his love for his brother and the pain of losing him.

I pause while writing this post to say that words can be frustratingly inadequate. I’ve never felt it more than I do right now. How can I express my deep love and appreciation for my son who chose to gift me with a song? Sung from deep within his heart, he gave me joy and soothed the ever-present sorrow. Through my tears, I felt his love, and I know I will cherish this special memory for the rest of my life. When it comes to mind that he rarely speaks of his brother, I will remember how he expressed his emotions so beautifully so soon after our tragic loss.

We all miss our son and brother terribly, and we look forward to seeing him again. This time he will be all brand new; we all will be brand new. On that day, we will lift up our voices and sing with thankful, joy-filled hearts to God. What a grand reunion!

“Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings.”  Psalm 63:7 NIV

PS – Perhaps I should explain the shoe test, in case you are still wondering. My son was nicely dressed . . . from ankles up. Sitting in the pew looking at his feet, probably reminded him, “Oh, I forgot to pack dress shoes.” His dad has smaller feet, but apparently he thought it was worth a try. Watching him “flip flop” up the aisle, probably to the amusement of others, makes the memory all the sweeter.



This entry was posted on November 20, 2015. 2 Comments

Falling leaves . . . Falling tears


Where I live, we have distinct seasons four times a year. The fall season is one of my favorites. The trees begin to change their wardrobe from summer greens to yellows, oranges, and all the lovely shades of red. Add in bright sunshine and clear blue skies ~ what’s not to love? Even though winter is waiting in the wings, the crisp freshness of Indian summer makes it seem far away. All too soon the bright colors will fade and the leaves will begin to fall . . . which reminds me of our falling tears.

With each autumn season for the past ten years my mind quite naturally goes to a place of sadness. I long for my firstborn, who no longer sees the beauty around us. He loved all the seasons with the exception of falling leaves and here’s why.

The first autumn in our current home found our boys helping their dad rake leaves to either burn or add to the compost pile. Our large back yard was full of towering maples which meant lots of cleanup. During this aching raking workout one of the boys piped up, “Hey, Dad, we’re going to cut down all the trees before next fall, aren’t we?” This question still brings a smile to my face. Back in those days we had two boys at home and both had bright futures, or so we thought. Little did we know that we would outlive our firstborn. He died by suicide sixteen years later.

That first fall after my son had died, I longed to talk with him. My logical mind knew he could not receive mail, but I wrote a letter to him anyway. Whenever my heart was overflowing with yearning, I wrote him a letter. Recently I came across a large envelope. Curious what I could have stored in there, I reached in and pulled out a sheaf of papers. There was my collection of letters that I had written to my son for a year following his death.

The first letter was written during Indian summer ten years ago. It verifies that I have not changed. I still miss him with each beautiful October that passes, and, of course, every other month as well. No doubt you, too, remember special times that foster fond memories. (If it is yet too soon for you to remember good times, don’t be disheartened. They will come. It seems like the mind is totally focused on the bad memories for a time.)

I don’t know if you write letters to your loved one.  I never could have imagined that I would be sharing my private thoughts with my readers, but it seems quite natural to do so, since I have been blogging for several years now. As I picked up my first letter and read it again, it seemed timely to share a portion of it with you. If nothing else, perhaps it will inspire you to write letters of your own. It’s not a useless activity. It’s one of the things we can do to help our healing.

My Dearest Son,

It’s Monday and the coldest day we have had this fall. You are missing the beautiful changes in color brought on by cooler temperatures. The leaves are quickly losing their grip on the branches and swirling in the wind. Your brother has moved south and away from the seasonal changes you both have known all your lives. He will miss snow this winter unless he makes a trip home.

I find myself longing for you. Today we received another memorial gift in your memory. This one is from the school where you received your degree. They remembered you fondly and wanted to honor your memory. So many people loved you and miss you. If only you could have felt that love while you were living. If only . . .

We love you so much, Son. We hurt that all we have left of you are memories. We know we live on borrowed time. None of us knows how many days we have on this earth, but we never expected you to decide to stop living. How could you do that because of a GF, and one who did not appreciate you for the wonderful person you were? I cannot hold anything against her. I cannot have anger towards her eating at me. Whatever part she played in your death, she will undoubtedly suffer with your memory the rest of her life. She was definitely not worth dying for. Maybe you just couldn’t face being lonely again.

We don’t know what you were thinking. How I wish I understood. I know it will all be made plain one day when Jesus returns. As these hope-filled verses say, “On that day, with a command that thunders into the world, with a voice of a chief heavenly messenger, and with a blast of God’s trumpet, the Lord Himself will descend from heaven” (1 Thessalonians 4:16 VOICE), and when He comes, your precious face is the first one I want to see.  Then all the reasons why you died will seem unimportant. See you soon, my sweet Son.

Love, Mom

For now, dear reader, your tears and mine fall . . . like the autumn leaves. Until Jesus returns, there will be seasons, but each day, each season that passes, we live in the hope of seeing our sons and daughters again, and very soon.

“The Sovereign Lord will destroy death forever! He will wipe away the tears from everyone’s eyes and take away the disgrace his people have suffered throughout the world. The Lord himself has spoken.” Isaiah 25:8 GNT




This entry was posted on November 6, 2015. 2 Comments

Heaven on a pit

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined the things that God has prepared for those who love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9 GW  


I look forward to each and every summer. I love the luscious fruits produced in abundance: peaches, plums, grapes, and watermelon, but sweet cherries are my absolute favorite. I love the deep red “Bing” cherries, and I buy pound after pound in the peak of their season. I also love the yellow-skinned, rosy blushed, “Queen” Rainier cherries. In spite of them being pricey, I still buy a pound or two each summer. To me they taste like “heaven on a pit”.

Speaking of heaven, I imagine some readers believe there is one and some don’t. Some may believe their loved ones are already there enjoying all that heaven has to offer, while others believe they aren’t there yet. Those of you who believe heaven exists, do you ever wonder what it’s like? I’ve heard tell that we will sit on fluffy clouds and strum harps. To me that would get boring after a while. Considering the Bible says there will be no night there, that’s a lot of daylight strumming a harp (Revelation 21:25). I’d rather learn to play a pipe organ in heaven. It’s always been my dream.

I’m always thinking about food, so I would be really disappointed if we were just wispy spirit forms and didn’t need food. But thankfully the Bible says we will have bodies, we will recognize each other, and we will get to eat! Certainly heaven’s food will be much better than anything we have ever tasted, don’t you think? What about size? Do you suppose the size of Earth’s fruits is puny compared to those in heaven? What if one sweet cherry were as big as a peach! What if apples were as big as cantaloupes! We will have lots of variety, for we are told there will be a different fruit every month. Let’s read the verse that explains it:

“On each side of the river was the tree of life, which bears fruit twelve times a year, once each month; and its leaves are for the healing of the nations” (Revelation 22:2 GNT). It’s hard to imagine this one tree will produce a different fruit each month of the year. It has to be a behemoth for its roots to be grounded on each side of the river of life.

The largest trees we have for comparison are: “The mighty tree in Santa Maria del Tule, which has a circumference of over 160 feet at its base, and is between 2000 and 3000 years old, making it one of the oldest living things on earth.” (delange.org) Another giant tree is the mighty General Sherman in Sequoia National Park, which “stands 275 feet (84 meters) tall, has a 102-foot (31 meters) circumference, and weighs an incredible 2.7 million pounds (1.2 million kilograms).” (livescience.com)

Besides the tree of life, what else do we know about heaven? There are a surprising number of verses that provide some details about heaven. It’s not a place of mystery or a fairy land. In fact, God holds the master key, the Bible, which unlocks secrets ~ things we might assume we can’t know until we get there. But why wait? Let’s take note of some details, and see for ourselves what is in store. It’s exciting, so let’s get going!

Q     What are some things we have on earth that we won’t have in heaven?

A    No violence (Isaiah 65:17, 18). Animals will live in harmony (Isaiah 11:6).  No more disease (Isaiah 33:24).  No more blindness or deafness (Isaiah 35:5, 6). “Babies will no longer die in infancy, and all people will live out their life span. Those who live to be a hundred will be considered young” (Isaiah 65:20 GNT).

Q     Where will we live?

A    Jesus is building mansions for us in His Father’s house (John 14: 1-3). We will build another home and plant vineyards, enjoying their fruit (Isaiah 65:21). It sounds like we will have both a city home and a country home. From what I read, we will be creating for our own pleasure.   

Q     What will the New Jerusalem be like?

A     Surrounding the city will be high walls, 66 meters or 144 cubits (Revelation 21:17) with 12 gates of solid pearl (Revelation 21:21, 12). There will be streets of pure translucent gold (Revelation 21:18, 21). The city has 12 layered foundations with jewels everywhere (Rev 21:14-19).

Q     How big will the city be?

A    The city’s foundation is 12,000 furlongs or about 375 miles on each side (Revelation 21:16). The city can easily house two billion people. In comparison Tokyo has 35 million and New York has 20 million. “A metropolis of this size in the middle of the United States would stretch from Canada to Mexico and from the Appalachian Mountains to the California border. The New Jerusalem is all the square footage anyone could ask for. If the city consisted of different levels (we don’t know this), and if each story were a generous twelve feet high, the city could have over 600,000 stories. If they were on different levels, billions of people could occupy the New Jerusalem, with many square miles per person.” (epm.org)  

Q   What are the sources of water and light?  

A     There will be lakes and rivers, but no sea (Revelation 21:1). A river will flow from God’s throne (Revelation 21:1-2). There will be no night in heaven. “The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light” (Revelation 21:23 NIV).    

Q    What might possibly be the most wondrous change ever?

A     “I heard a voice thunder from the Throne: ‘Look! Look! God has moved into the neighborhood, making his home with men and women! They’re his people, he’s their God. He’ll wipe every tear from their eyes. Death is gone for good—tears gone, crying gone, pain gone—all the first order of things gone.’ The Enthroned continued, ‘Look! I’m making everything new. Write it all down—each word dependable and accurate'” (Revelation 21:3-5 MSG). 

When you add up all the facts, does it make you long for heaven? Me, too!

There are those of us who mourn for a beloved child or other loved ones and long to see them again. I picture my son radiant with joy, all sadness is forever gone. As we clasp each other in a bear hug, I can finally breathe a sigh of relief. Heaven has come at last. The darkness of earth is forever gone. Nothing remains to mar our perfect happiness from here on. Eternal bliss . . . served with a cherry on top!
















Splashes of Blessings

~ Take the plunge into God’s sea of blessings ~


I’ve been putting it off and putting it off. Finally I gave in. It was time to pull on my swimsuit (ugh), and head to the local YMCA for some warm water aerobics. Some of you may think this does not qualify as “real” exercise, but when the body has been allowed to “go to seed” one has to start somewhere, right? Besides I was in the good company of “Silver Foxy” ladies and felt right at home.

Most of the exercisers have been coming to the YMCA for years, and knew which exercise was coming next. Instead of listening to the instructor, they were chitchatting away in little groups. Me? I had to strain to hear instructions, for I was born with two right hands and two left feet which have minds of their own and insist on going in all directions. But I am there to corral them, and they will learn.

The little lady, in a bright purple swimsuit, standing near me in the pool, said that she comes twice a week to get limbered up. If she doesn’t come, her body stiffens up, keeping her in bondage to old age (my words, not hers). Doing exercises in warm water gives her freedom to keep moving. I admire her spunk and motivation. I should take lessons from her.

Then there’s a lady who lives in a wheelchair because of her disability. The chair is her constant companion which propels her from room to room, but she never has the opportunity to get her circulation moving from head to toe. The only time she feels her body is more friend than a foe, is when she’s in the pool. Buoyed by the water, she swims lap after lap. Her hands splash in the water and move her along. For those minutes, she is free. The onlookers cheer her on ~ what a nice bonus!

So where do I fit in? Their hair may be whiter than mine. I may be more out of shape than most of them, so I need to join them and stick it out as long as they have to improve my health. Is there any other benefit? Surprisingly, yes. On my way to the YMCA, I drive by the cemetery where my son is buried. I have to keep a firm hand on the wheel, or I will automatically turn in. All the emotions of loss and coping come rushing over me. And the negative thoughts begin to churn in my head: Why do you need exercise? Why not just skip it? Nobody will know or miss you, so why bother?

But I keep going. I park my car, walk in, and step down into the pool. Ahhh. Wet, warm comfort envelops me. Yes, I move my body parts against the water’s resistance in an attempt to stave off the “flab” of gravity under the scowling face of Father Time. But something else happens. I receive an unexpected blessing ~ my spirits get bathed, too. I did not anticipate this to happen. No one there will ever suspect that I am a lifetime griever. The flab they can see; nowhere can it hide. But no one can see the invisible scars on my heart.

Now I look forward to being soothed and embraced by splashes of warm water, which will eventually bring better health to my body. It will also bring a brief respite from emotional pain in my mind and heart. Perhaps there are readers who will consider trying this, too. Blessings can be found in the most unexpected places.

I watched a lady on crutches after surgery (many surgeries, so said some ladies) find her freedom. She dove in the water head first, getting wet from head to toe, and coming up to gulp sweet air. A smile broke across her face. For a few minutes she was free. No need for crutches and no fear of putting weight on the injured knee.

That’s me, Lord. I don’t dive, but I want to plunge into your sea of blessings, and come up drenched and grateful to be alive. May Your sweet blessings cling to my spirit, allowing just a bit more healing today than yesterday. Descend on me Your gentle rain, soft like the dew on blades of grass. And Lord, please bless every reader who grieves. I know very few names, but You know them all. Splash over them, drenching them in Your comfort and peace. Thank You, amen.

“Let my teachings come down like raindrops. Let my words drip like dew, like gentle rain on grass, like showers on green plants.”  Deuteronomy 32:2 GW


This entry was posted on October 9, 2015. 4 Comments

Bible Moms: Rock-a-bye Baby Moses


Nile River

When I was a child, I loved to play “let’s pretend” with my older sister or with my friends. Did you? Now a grownup, I have outgrown childish games, but I find that writing with a healthy dose of pretending or imagination brings words to life, particularly ancient words.

Jochebed is an ancient name found in the Old Testament. For a moment, let’s pretend Jochebed has joined a grief support group. She is seeking kinship among other mothers who know loss. Jochebed knows loss, too, but hers is different from theirs. She has just weaned her child . . . and given him away. Let’s join the group and listen as she shares her story.

Hello. My name is Jochebed. I’m a mom like you. I have suffered, too, over the loss of my child. However my loss is different from yours. My son has not died from suicide or other causes. Hopefully he has not died at all. Perhaps it will help you to understand if I tell you what happened.

I became pregnant with my little boy, Tov, at a most horrific time in my life. I am Hebrew. My people are slaves to the Egyptian people. They work us hard and beat us if they think we aren’t doing our jobs fast enough. In spite of our circumstances God is blessing my people, and we are multiplying greatly. It seems the size of our families worries the Egyptian Pharaoh, so he ordered all male babies to be killed during birth. Midwives defied the law and let baby boys live. This so enraged the Pharaoh that he ordered all newborn baby boys be cast into the Nile River! Being pregnant I was beside myself with worry. None of us wanted to lose our babies. Many of my friends were already in mourning because of this heinous law, and babies will continue to die as long as this law is enforced.

Then little Tov was born. He was such a beautiful baby . . . how could I give him up? Few Hebrew women knew of my pregnancy, and they would not tell. I decided to try to keep my baby hidden from sight, hoping he wouldn’t be heard. I met his needs quickly to keep him comfortable and quiet. My plan worked for three months, but then he became too noisy to keep hidden any longer. He was a big baby with a loud and lusty cry. I lived in constant fear some Egyptian would hear him and report us.

But God gave me an idea. I would put him into the Nile River, just in a different way. I made a basket out of papyrus and waterproofed it with tar and pitch. When it was dry, I added a blanket for padding and nursed my sweet baby one last time. My husband, 7-year-old daughter Miriam, and 4-year-old son Aaron took turns holding him and loving on him. We closed the lid, and in the early dawn I set our little water baby among the tall reeds at water’s edge. Miriam, who was assigned the task of keeping watch, hid among the reeds nearby.

What a dark day that was. Would we ever see our precious bundle again? Would he die of starvation or be eaten by wild animals? I shuddered to think something horrible would happen to my baby, but I couldn’t allow him to be thrown into the Nile as Pharaoh had ordered. I would just have to trust in Jehovah, my God.

Miriam watched the basket as it rocked gently on the little ripples near the riverbank. Tov loved to rock, so he remained quiet . . . for the moment.  Miriam hadn’t been at her post long when she saw Pharaoh’s daughter, with her servants, approaching the riverbank to bathe. As the princess walked along the bank, she spied the basket. Curious, she called for one of her servants to retrieve it for her.

They could hear a baby whimpering as they drew near, and when they opened the lid, Tov let out a wail. “Oh, this must be a Hebrew baby,” she said, her heart melting at the sight of such a beautiful baby. Instantly Miriam sprang into action. She approached Pharaoh’s daughter and asked, “Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?” (Exodus 2:7). The princess agreed, and Miriam took off running to get me.

When Miriam burst through the door with her news, can you imagine my relief? Hurriedly Miriam led the way to the riverbank where the princess was holding my baby in her arms.

Pharaoh’s daughter said to me, “Take this baby and nurse him for me, and I will pay you.” So I took the baby and nursed him. When the child grew older, I returned him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son. She named him Moses, saying, “I drew him out of the water” (Exodus 2:9-10, paraphrased).

Now you know how my baby got his name changed to “Moses”. I was so overjoyed to have him in my arms again that I tried not to think about what lay ahead. I knew he would be given an Egyptian name, but I chose to focus on the present. I was happy that I could nurse him, and openly love him, and he would be a part of our family for a little while longer. The most I could hope for was maybe three more years. It would have to be enough. We tried not to spoil Moses, or treat him better than our other children, but it was hard not to. Every day I sang to him, and told him stories about God. How much would he remember? After years in the palace in Egypt, would he even know he wasn’t born an Egyptian? So many thoughts made my heart ache.

Then came that awful day. I had been dreading it as you can imagine. My husband and older children had bonded with Tov, too, so we were all sad to hand him over as promised. He would grow up Egyptian. Later we heard what his new name was, so foreign among my people. He now was one of them.

That’s my story. I weep every day for my child. I can’t see him. I never hear how he is doing. There are so many unknowns: Does the princess take good care of him? Is he accepted along with the other palace children, who were born Egyptian and not Hebrew? Will God keep His eye on my child, who will be brought up to believe in heathen gods? My heart is heavy with grief.

Now I must move forward without my son. I have other children who need me. And we are still enslaved to those who have my son, but I can’t pretend I never gave birth to him. This is why I joined your group. I pray you will accept me, even if my story differs greatly from yours. I want to hear your stories, too. I cannot fathom the depth of your pain from loss. I ache for my child, but I believe he is alive. I am so sad that your children are not. I hope that as we share our stories together, we will all be comforted.


Moses did live and he did reach out to his Hebrew family when he grew up.  As a man Moses heard God calling him to play a mighty role in rescuing the Hebrews from Egyptian slavery. The story of Moses continues . . .

“The Lord said, ‘I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians. So now, go. I am sending you [Moses] to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelite’s out of Egypt.’” Exodus 3:7-8, 10 NIV

Baby Moses’s story found in Exodus 2, New International Version (NIV)




This entry was posted on September 25, 2015. 2 Comments

Family Genes

I love blue jeans. In fact I love them so much I have newer, trimmer sizes “weighting” in the wings ready to wear . . . if you get my drift. Perhaps I’m the only one having to admit I’ve failed in my attempt to drop unwanted “somethings” in order to fit into them? Probably not . . . but let’s focus our attention on the other kind of genes for a moment.


~ Guilt is perhaps the most painful companion of death. ~ Coco Chanel

I am mindful that we all have hurting hearts. I like to ask questions to stimulate thought. If I fail in my attempt, please tell me so in your comments, and I promise to try harder.

Like snowflakes, we are all different and yet similar in our pain. Those of you who are new to your grief journey may choose to set this piece aside for now. I may be asking questions that only increase your pain, and I don’t want to do that. And may I add that I am so sorry for your unspeakable loss.

All of our losses leave us with questions that don’t seem to have answers. Often we are bombarded with guilt. I describe it for myself this way: It’s like having a personal black cloud overhead that follows me wherever I go. No one can take it away or tell me to get rid of it. They can advise me, but that is all. Ridding myself of guilt is something I must do. It has no power over me ~ only the power I give it. Once I realize that I have a choice between living under a black cloud or living in the sunshine, I can chose to set myself free, and release the guilt to the wind.

Releasing the guilt is like accepting a gift ~ the gift of self forgiveness. Often we have a hard time forgiving ourselves, but the gift is free for the taking. The point of this piece is that there is relief for the hurting soul, and it just might be found in forgiving oneself.

As I applied sunscreen today I noticed my furrowed brow . . . and I wasn’t even raising my eyebrows. No matter. It was still furrowed. I have no choice. I inherited this trait. My father had a furrowed brow, often in sync with raised eyebrows and crinkled wrinkles in his laugh lines. Not only my dad, but his sister, and their mother had the same furrows and crinkles. There are probably more likenesses even further generations back. We have sturdy genes! I know you know what I’m talking about, for you have them, too ~ those persistent traits passed down from generation to generation. Some we like. Some we’d eliminate if we could.

What about those traits we wish we could get rid of? Let’s say you don’t like your over-abundant sprinkling of freckles, or maybe your hair is curly, and you wish it were straight, or vice versa. What about the traits that are inside us; the ones hidden beneath the epidermis? Sometimes heredity predisposes us to disease. I am a carrier of Muscular Dystrophy (MD). Three uncles and two cousins died from MD from my side of the family tree. Females are carriers and MD predominantly affects boys. The disease manifested itself in early childhood showing weakness in large muscles. At the time in history when my uncles and cousins had MD, they were able to live until their early twenties.

What about depression? It’s another disease I know something about. Depression is also genetic and runs in families. I have depression. I do not know whether any of my ancestors had the disease. Maybe in those days it was not even diagnosed. Loss of children alone, like my maternal grandparents suffered, could send one into deep depression. I’ve been in and out of depression most of my adult life, and I have no doubt that I passed it to my firstborn son. Likely he suffered from it most of his young life. I never thought about depression being hereditary until long after my son took his life. Knowing we both carried a weakness for this silent disease in our gene pool hurts me deeply. I can’t help the hurt, but neither can I let self blame destroy me.

If you are a parent who has lost your child, and you suspect depression was a key factor, please don’t blame yourself. Depression is not easy to diagnose. It is a silent, relentless disease that can bring shame to those who suffer from it. I must admit that I have not sought treatment for it, although I acknowledge it during medical exams.

My son had been treated for depression in the past, but he did not want to go back on drugs. He was an adult. It was his decision. In spite of personal pain, he was an excellent employee and was well-liked among his peers. They were totally shocked by his suicide. How many others are like him in some way? How many would get jobs if they admitted on their resume that they suffered from depression? I’ve worked in Human Resources. From my experience I’d have to say, “Not likely.”

Those of us outliving a precious child, who chose to die by suicide, struggle to put guilt to rest. We created this child. They were bits and parts of two people who have both strengths and weaknesses in their genes. And not only our genes, but what about the weaknesses in our environment? Our children are impacted by all of it. Are we somehow responsible for the decisions they make once they leave home? Wouldn’t it be unrealistic to think so?

We aim to do our very best rearing our precious children, but there comes a day when they fly free. We want them to, don’t we? They need to make their own footprint in the world. We’d love to steer them clear of potential potholes, which we are more likely to see on the horizon. Wisdom coupled with age has given us clarity, but our young people don’t often take our advice. After they reach a certain age, they think they are wiser, more mature, and more in touch with the world.

It is my opinion that we have to let our children live and make their own choices while loving them unconditionally. It’s that final choice they made . . . the one we were powerless to stop . . . that breaks us. It has taken years, but now I understand and accept that my son was very depressed before he died and perhaps long before that. The realization that my son and I shared the same weakness will always hurt, but I couldn’t prevent his choices any more than I could prevent freckles. Our family of genes, coupled with life experiences, makes up the sum total of who we are. We have carried down through the generations the strengths and weaknesses of our ancestors. And if we go all the way back to our first parents, Adam and Eve, we realize that they sinned. And their sin has been carried forward in every generation since.

Why not list depression with all other diseases that don’t have a stigma? Let’s detonate the stigma of shame that society has attached to depression. Let’s talk about it freely, just like we are learning to talk openly about suicide. Can we agree to not beat ourselves up over the parts of our genes that may or may not have played a significant role in our children’s deaths? It was their choice to die. Not ours. We tried to be the best parents we could be. To quote Maya Angelou, “If I’d known better I’d have done better.”

“Even if we feel guilty, God is greater than our feelings, and he knows everything.” 1 John 3:20 NLT

“The child does not share the guilt of the parent, nor the parent the guilt of the child.” Ezekiel 18:20 MSG

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Eternal, “plans for peace, not evil, to give you a future and hope—never forget that.” Jeremiah 29:11 VOICE



This entry was posted on September 11, 2015. 4 Comments

God Whispers

 She [Jezebel] sent a message to Elijah: “May the gods strike me dead if by this time tomorrow I don’t do the same thing to you that you did to the prophets.”  1 Kings 19:2 GNT


Even if you hide, God know where you are


Queen Jezebel’s death threat could not be misunderstood. If I had heard these words while on God’s mission, I might have taken off running too, which is exactly what Elijah did. He ran until he was deep in the desert and collapsed under the first tree that offered shade. Based on his request to God to end it all, I’d say he was depressed and suicidal, but don’t take my word for it. Please read on . . .

“Elijah walked a whole day into the wilderness. He stopped and sat down in the shade of a tree and wished he would die. “It’s too much, Lord,” he prayed. ‘Take away my life; I might as well be dead!”

You see, Elijah had just come from a pyrotechnics display of God’s power on Mt. Carmel in a showdown between the prophets of Baal and the God of heaven. Even if you aren’t familiar with the story you can probably guess who won. One might expect Elijah to be invigorated and excited after witnessing God’s mighty power. Instead, when he received Queen Jezebel’s death threat, his high quickly evaporated, and he ran for his life.

Now Elijah is sitting exhausted under a juniper tree. He begs God to put him out of his misery, but God does not grant his request. Instead, He sends an angel to prepare a meal for Elijah to eat. Famished, Elijah wolfs down the meal, satisfies his thirst, and falls back to sleep.

The angel returns later and prepares another meal. He awakens Elijah, who eats and drinks. Nourished, Elijah walks forty days and nights, all the way to Mt. Horeb, where he crawls inside a cave and falls asleep.

Up to this point in the story, Elijah’s actions appear to be motivated by fear: he ran, he slept, he hid, he was fed by an angel ~ okay, that part would be a bit out of the ordinary.

I cannot compare my experience with Elijah’s, but I have acted in similar ways when depression has descended upon me like a wet blanket. I have felt myself tumbling into a dark, bottomless pit. Fearful, helpless, I have also asked God to take my life. Like with Elijah, God answered me, but not according to my request.

Had Elijah stopped trusting in God? Where was God during this critical time in his life? Had He left Elijah to fend for himself? God was caring for his basic needs by sending an angel. Now let’s read what happens next:

“Suddenly the Lord spoke to him, “Elijah, what are you doing here?”

“He answered, “Lord God Almighty, I have always served you—you alone. But the people of Israel have broken their covenant with you, torn down your altars, and killed all your prophets. I am the only one left—and they are trying to kill me!”

Essentially God said to Elijah, “You mean to tell Me, after all My power you witnessed on Mt. Carmel, you turn and run from a . . . girl?”

Poor Elijah. He was scared out of his wits and feared for his life. Was he no longer believing that God was protecting and providing for him? Apparently not. He even told God that he was the only faithful prophet left. God responded by telling Elijah to go stand in the mouth of the cave. He was about to witness God’s amazing power displayed just for him.

“Go out and stand before me on top of the mountain,” the Lord said to him. “Then the Lord passed by and sent a furious wind that split the hills and shattered the rocks—but the Lord was not in the wind. The wind stopped blowing, and then there was an earthquake—but the Lord was not in the earthquake.  After the earthquake there was a fire—but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the soft whisper of a voice.”

Again God quietly asked Elijah, “What are you doing here?”

Elijah recounts how he has been working diligently for God, and now he is the only prophet left who serves Him. God instructs Elijah what to do next and then adds, “By the way, Elijah, you are not alone. I have seven thousand people alive in Israel who have remained faithful to me”(1 Kings 19:18, paraphrased).

I love this story. It keeps me on the edge of my seat. God eliminated the enemy with a force of fire power, and yet when He spoke to Elijah at the cave He did so in a still, small voice. I know this voice. I have heard Him speak to my heart, time after time, when I am overwhelmed with sorrow and depression. And when I am tempted to think, I am the only one, He gently reminds me that I am not.

It is unlikely that you have witnessed God’s power displayed in wind, earthquake, or fire, but you have probably heard His voice whispering to you in the night. Maybe you have called out to Him in your suffering, and He has responded gently to your heart. Maybe you have wailed to God, “I want to die! Life is too empty, too painful without my child.” And God responds with calming comfort.

In the quiet, listen.

In the storms, listen.

In your pain and suffering, listen.

God is loving and caring. He will always supply your needs.

Seek your happiness in the Lordand he will give you your heart’s desire.” Psalm 37:4 GNT 

“Your ears will hear sweet words behind you: ‘Go this way. There is your path; this is how you should go’ whenever you must decide whether to turn to the right or the left.”  Isaiah 30:21 VOICE

~Bible story found in 1 Kings 19, Good News Translation (GNT)










This entry was posted on August 28, 2015. 2 Comments

The Grand Reunion ~ I Can Only Imagine!

~ Anniversary post honoring our sons & daughters gone too soon ~

photo 2 (9)

“We who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.”

Warm sunshine beckons. It’s long, shadowy fingers draw me back to a piece of ground we consider our own. The trees are bursting with buds in all shades of pink, heralding spring’s arrival. It’s time to play outside. It’s also time to put flowers on my son’s grave once more, reminding me that I still have this small task I can do in his honor.

I’m no different from you, dear reader, if you, too, are outliving a child, especially to suicide, which we know adds another painful dimension to our grief. We know the difficulty of carrying on. Some may never set foot in the cemetery where their child is buried. Others may keep their loved one’s remains close by or do other special things to create important memories going forward. Setting out flowers during the warm months centers me, reminding me that life is moving forward. But there is something coming, and I can hardly wait for it to get here!

I am expecting the granddaddy of all reunions ~ the great Grand Reunion in the sky! I have read 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 over and over, comparing various versions and allowing the words to sink deeply into my being. They warm my spirit and fill me with hope and longing. Let’s read them together, allowing the energy to capture our imagination and charge our batteries for what is to come:

“On that day, with a command that thunders into the world, with a voice of a chief heavenly messenger, and with a blast of God’s trumpet, the Lord Himself will descend from heaven; and all those who died in the Anointed One, our Liberating King, will rise from the dead first. Then we who are alive and left behind will be snatched up together with them into the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. This is how we, the resurrected and the living, will be with Him forever” (1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17 VOICE).  

I don’t know about you, but for me, this is very good news! I can only imagine!  

It’s okay if you believe differently. Your comments are welcomed so that all readers can be encouraged by our individual pictures of this Grand Reunion. Much of what I have pictured in my mind comes from the above two verses and ignites my imagination. Of course, as a feeble human, I have nothing of such grand scale for comparison. But it helps me visualize this awesome event and long for it . . . to long for it with greater intensity than any planned vacation. I can only imagine!

Please allow me freedom to express that I believe my son is in a deep sleep, referred to as the sleep of death (Psalm 76:5). He is unaware of anything going on above ground (Ecclesiastes 9:5). He doesn’t know who’s President, how the stock market is doing, or who won the Masters this year in his favorite sport. He has no thought or memory (Psalm 146:4). Once he drew his final breath ~ borrowed from the Life Giver ~ he returned to dust. This is the exact reversal of the creation process: God formed man from the dust of the earth, He breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and Adam became the first living being (Genesis 2:7).

It astounds me to realize that I have been on this journey almost ten years now. I actually didn’t think I could survive a week after my boy died. Many of you are new to your grief journey, and your hearts are raw, fragile, and heavy. I know your pain, and I am so sorry for your suffering. It’s hard to keep moving forward. I know. My desire is for this piece to provide hope, encouragement, and be a reminder that time does pass. With all the mayhem occurring in the world today I think we don’t have much longer to wait. Any day now Jesus could return. I can only imagine!

Should He delay, perhaps I will go to my rest, but if not, I can tell you what I will do: I will drive about two miles down the road, make a left turn into the cemetery, follow the winding road back to a line of trees, and arrive where my son is buried. Maybe I will pitch a tent nearby, camping out in anticipation. If the heavens start to rumble, and the air becomes supercharged with energy, it’s time for me to dash to my son’s spot. I can only imagine!

Will this be a quiet event? Absolutely not! There will be shouts and thunder and trumpet blasts in the skies. The pandemonium undoubtedly will reverberate around the world, since every eye will see Him come (Revelation 1:7). And not only that, for the first time ever, cemeteries will be the grandest, happiest, busiest, noisiest places on earth. Families like ours will gather in eager anticipation. My heart will be pounding out of my chest as we wait in breathless excitement for our precious son and brother to pop up out of the ground. In fact, his dad had better take a step or two back from where he is standing (in the picture above), for our boy could shoot out of the ground like a ball out of a cannon! Or, maybe “Gabe,” his guardian angel who was by his side all of his life, will give us a huge grin before he reaches down into the ground, grabs Greg by the hand, and pulls him up out of there! I can only imagine!

Whether I get my first hug on the ground or in the air does not matter. I can hardly wait! As our feet leave the ground, we will keep our eyes fixed on the sky, which will grow brighter and brighter as Jesus Christ, crowned King of Kings and Lord of Lords, surrounded by billions of heavenly angels, draws closer and closer. The colors, the strains of beautiful music, and the angels singing in the skies, will be unlike anything I have ever seen or heard. Can I absorb it all? Can my eyes and ears take it all in? My heart will be full to bursting with my arms clasped tightly around those I love and have missed for so long. I can only imagine!

I close my eyes and try to picture what it will be like. Whenever I become discouraged and think this reunion is taking too long to arrive, I hit “start” and replay my reunion “video” over and over in my mind to encourage me to hold on. The great Grand Reunion is coming! I can only imagine!

That is what the Scripture means when it says, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9 NLT 

 “And then there will be one huge family reunion with the Master. So reassure one another with these words.” 1 Thessalonians 4:18 MSG

I can only imagine!

This entry was posted on August 14, 2015. 6 Comments

In the Trenches

sharing the journey

“I am the Lord your God . . . who leads you in the way that you should go.” Isaiah 48:17 AMP

To my faithful readers: Thank you for sticking by my blog even as I “disappeared” for weeks due to computer failure. I am limping along with my old one, but a new computer will be up and running in the next few weeks.

* * *

I’ve been in grief’s deep trenches “forever” it seems. Many seasons have come and gone. In my opinion, burying a child who has died by suicide is the hardest battle one can endure on Planet Earth. I was blindsided, gutted, and left wondering what happened. I will likely spend the rest of my life trying to fill in the missing pieces. Unlike death from disease, old age, or even accidents ~ where law enforcement specialists can usually put the jigsaw puzzle together ~ suicide survivors are left with jagged holes in their report. We are more likely left with unanswered questions to carry the rest of our days. Sound familiar? I know this deep pain. I know what it feels like to outlive my child. I know the longing and deep anguish that hounds my every step like suffocating shadows wearing combat boots. Battle weary, it is a challenge to keep going. You too?

Every anniversary of my son’s death, and often in between, I struggle with his final personal battle, wondering how things could have been different, and missing him so much. Many “newbies” to this grief journey, may find it a challenge to get out of bed every day, put one foot in front of the other, and keep up with the living going on around them. But as tough as moving forward is, I can never do it alone. Over time, I learned to turn my mess over to my Commander-in-Chief, the God of heaven.

I invite you to take a look back with me as I share a bit of my war story when I lost my son to suicide. It eventually led to a grief ministry, but that comes later.To say that I was under a rock or unavailable for a couple of years is no exaggeration. I had no connections with anyone who was surviving in the suicide trenches, so where could I turn? In time, I sensed God nudging me, trying to get my attention. It was as if He was saying to my heart, “I want you to reach out to others who are grieving loss from suicide.”

And my response, after recovering from shock at His request, was, “Excuse me, God? You mean You want me, who has been curled up in a fetal position and under a rock so long I don’t remember, to reach out and help others? How do I do that exactly? And whatever do I have to offer another griever, other than a shattered heart?”

Like many of you, I finally joined grief sites on social media. Sometimes I add comments to what others have said. It totally surprised me one day to read something I had written and another griever had copied and pasted my words and sent them back around. I read the comment, which included my quote, and gulped. Did I really write that? Hopefully, readers found it meaningful and helpful, as I intended. The paragraph below is one of those examples. I truly meant these words when I wrote them, and perhaps they are worth repeating for the benefit of those who are new to this journey. If they don’t fit where you are now, one can always tuck them away for future pondering:

“Coming face to face with horrible tragedy, drops us to our knees, where we are in the perfect position to grasp the feet of Jesus, refusing to let go, like Jacob, until He blesses us. And that He does. He also will never leave us or forsake us ~ His promise, not mine. Like you, I would have rather escaped major sorrow, but looking back, I see more clearly than I did facing forward. Tragedy has a way of revealing pure gold that has been tried in the fire. Humbled by horror, perhaps we are all the more useful to our Heavenly Father.”

Yes, I have been humbled to the marrow. There is no escaping the horror of the sudden death of our children, and all too often, it is by their choice. It is a pain like no other, and although the intensity waxes and wanes over time, there is no doubt it will continue all of our days. By God’s amazing grace, something good can come from it . . . will come from it.

Now back to God asking me to help others. I wondered what He had in mind. I don’t remember the timeline. I’m sure that much time passed before anything came of it, and it didn’t happen overnight. First He gently asked me to journal my pain to Him. I emphatically refused. He nudged. I refused. He nudged some more until I gave in, sat down in front of a blank PC screen, and said out loud, “Now what?” Amazingly, the screen did not stay blank for long, and before I realized what was happening, words of raw, painful emotions were pouring out of me. Writing, something I had never done before, became a healing balm for my soul.

After I had journaled for a time, somehow I just knew He had plans to share my private thoughts with others, and the very idea scared me spit-less. Nonetheless, I tried to keep an open mind, knowing God could do anything with willing clay. If He wanted to take my journal and turn it into a book, then He would have to do it. How? I had no idea. God had given me my marching orders, but it did not mean the enemy raised the flag of surrender. Hardly. I learned really fast that I needed my Commander-in-Chief always at my back, guiding and guarding me as I wrote. The enemy must have sent his scouts to see where they could sabotage God’s soldiers, because two computer hard drives bit the dust while I was writing. My faith grew as I realized I could put my trust in my God, and He would never fail me. Our side won the battle over the manuscript, and it was not lost with the computer.

Today I look back at an amazing feat, really a miracle. A book about my shattered heart after suicide was published several years ago. Judging by the responses from grievers, God not only is blessing others through those pages but also is honoring my son’s memory.

I share the quote and publishing as examples to remind us grievers that good things do come out of this lifelong journey. Suicide is not the end, but the beginning of yet another portion of our lives. Granted, it’s not what we would plan . . . not in the least. And we get battle fatigue. But God can use even something this painful for His glory, even a miracle of helping us heal. When tragedy strikes, we are wounded beyond human repair. And if the loss itself is not enough, bullets are constantly whizzing overhead: bullets of ignorant comments or bullets of sabotage by those who are supposed to support us, to name two. I’m sure you can think of more. Deep in the trenches, we learn to keep our heads down. In fact, learning to bow our heads in prayer is like connecting our “plug” into the Power Source of heaven. God hears and answers every prayer. He stays in the trenches with us. He knows we are broken, and over time, He will heal.

It’s not in looking forward that I am aware of healing, but in looking backward. Looking back is where I have 20/20 vision. Looking back reveals a surprise ~ where I can actually see the evidence of how God has led me. By experience I am learning that I can trust Him to inch me forward and eventually lead me out of the trenches and into eternity to live forever with my loved ones. He has beautiful plans for all of us.

“Jesus answered them, ‘Do you finally believe? . . . I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.’” John 16:31-33 MSG

“Shattered by Suicide, My Conversations With God After the Tragic Death of My Son” & “Picking Up the Pieces, Stories of Encouragement for Mending Hearts” by Gracie Thompson




This entry was posted on July 31, 2015. 6 Comments

Sweet memories

I drew them [the children] to me with affection and love. I picked them up and held them to my cheek; I bent down to them and fed them.  Hosea 11:4, GNT


Berries and vanilla bean ice cream. Yum!

It’s not much of an achievement, but I could probably walk away with a lifetime award for Dairy Queen consumption. Soft-serve may not fill your sweet tooth, but it does mine. Factor in a hot, muggy day, and I am ready to lick a cone.

When I was young, living in a small town had its perks. From my childhood home to the Dairy Queen was about three city blocks. I loved it when Daddy said these yummy words, “Let’s go get a twenty-five cent-er” which was ice cream code for “Let’s buy the largest cone DQ sells and pay only 25 cents.”

I know I date myself when I ask this question: can you believe how cheap Dairy Queen treats were “back in the day?” Drive-thru had not been invented yet, so I stood in line until it was my turn to order. The person inside where it was cool, would lift up the window and listen to my selection, then lower the window to keep the hot air out while making my treat. The window would open again, and money and treat would be exchanged. Ahhh. Cold, creamy, smooth, and sweet. What’s not to like?

My firstborn as a young child could win hands down for making his ice cream last the longest. He absolutely loved the stuff ~ probably pulled from my gene pool. I remember his first taste, however, provided by an enthusiastic aunt. She smiled. He made a face and cried. Even though it was not love at first taste, it soon grew on him and he joined his parents in licking the creamy goodness.

I think my favorite family ice cream memory involved a trip to the coast, and boy, it was a boiling hot day. We were walking across a bed of sizzling sea shells, so unlike the crunch of hot gravel underfoot back home. We needed a ferry to give us a lift and had to wait for it to return before we could board. The heat was unbearable. Was there no relief? And then we spotted it. Towering high above us was the sweetest sign of signs, [DAIRY QUEEN]!!! We were not seeing things. This was no mirage! And I can honestly say I have never had a DQ before or since that tasted that good.

Memories. Life is made up of them. Many are wonderfully sweet while others are so desperately sad, especially after losing someone we love. So why didn’t I take more photos to remember these now priceless moments when there was no one missing back then? Did I think there would always be more opportunities? Yes. I’m sure I did. Did I not factor in the possibility of tragedy? No. Absolutely not.

All memories remain as we survive, outliving our loved ones. But it becomes a blessing when one’s grief journey is able to take a stroll back to happier times. If it’s too soon, and the wound is too raw, I am so sorry for your suffering, but don’t lose hope. You will begin to remember sweeter memories when you are ready . . . maybe even ones smothered in ice cream.

O taste and see that the Lord [our God] is good! Blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied) is the man who trusts and takes refuge in Him. Psalms 34:8 AMP



This entry was posted on July 3, 2015. 2 Comments