Sunday, January 26, 2014

A Sweet Way to Remember a Loved One

   Death is no stranger to any of us. And if we have not yet suffered the loss of someone we love, it is inevitable that we will. Death has been a fact of life since Adam and Eve left the garden, and will be so until Jesus comes again. Even if we carry the surety of heaven in our hearts, the process of dying still gives us pause. When we bury someone that we love, we understand the fragility of life in a new and different way. As never before, we long for the day when death and dying shall be no more.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth for the old heaven and the old earth had passed away...
I heard a loud voice saying, God's dwelling place is now among the people
and God himself shall be with them...
He will wipe every tear from their eyes. 
There will be no more death, or mourning, or crying, or pain, 
for the old order of things has passed away. 
             From Revelation 21

    As a Christian, I am thankful to be of those who do not grieve without hope. Do Christians grieve? Absolutely! Yet the wonder is that the Holy Spirit miraculously keeps hope alive in our hearts. When we become believers, the hope of heaven is literally woven into the very fabric of our DNA. It cannot be denied. We may try, but hope works on us from the inside out, to bring us comfort, peace and a flicker of joy, even on the darkest of days. And so it is and has been with the Baby Sister.
     During the past two years, she and her husband, David, were an inspiration to me and many others, as against all odds, he chose life and fought hard and courageously to live each day on this earth that he had been given. When death finally came in July of this past year, David surrendered himself into the loving arms of His Savior and entered into the glory of life everlasting. Friends and family came near and far to cry, to weep, to rejoice, and to celebrate David Randell White's homegoing to heaven. My husband said it was the best funeral he had ever attended. It was hard, but it was good.
    My sister is keeping on with life since her husband passed away. I am sure that there are days when the depth of her loss takes her to her knees. And there are days when the grief of David's death is but a shadow that hovers and passes. Sometimes the nights are long and lonely and then there are times when she can sleep like a baby. Each day is different.
    The first holidays without a loved one can be especially difficult. The sense of loss is palpable. With Christmas coming, my sister came up with an idea for gifts for her children and grandchildren that would give them a tangible reminder of the father and grandfather they loved so much. Here is how it came about. In late summer when my sister began going through her husband's clothing, she found that there were several shirts that she was having a hard time parting with as they were a tangible reminder to her of her husband and of the special things he liked to do. There were his roping shirts (he was a team roper extraordinaire), his fishing shirts (he loved to flyfish and spend time on the Choctawhatchee Bay in his boat), his hunting shirts, his work shirts, his church shirts, and more. If you are getting the idea that this was a man who loved to spend time working outside enjoying God's marvelous creation, you would be right! David also loved to laugh, to sing, and as a man of great faith, he loved to worship the Lord with great freedom and joy. And even though he was a talented builder of note (one of his homes graced the cover of Coastal Living magazine), an incredible and creative problem solver, who was pragmatic, thrifty, and resourceful, he could be tough, if he needed to be. Yet David Randell White was a man with a great sense of humor, who loved his wife and his family and his Lord above all else. In short, he had the heart of a teddy bear. So the Baby Sister took his favorite shirts and made them into bears.
    One son loved to fish with his Dad, so his bear was made from a shirt he had seen his father wear when they fished together. One of the granddaughters loved nothing better than watching "Pa" roping his cows, so she was given a bear made from a roping shirt complete with a pocket with snaps. There was a bear with a camouflage look made from a hunting shirt, a soft flannel shirt oft worn became another favored bear. And the list went on. No two were alike. My sister had a bear made for herself out of a church shirt because some of her favorite memories were of standing beside her husband as they worshipped the Lord together. One special touch is that there are bears set aside for grandchildren yet to be born. 
   My sister's found a wonderful way to remember her husband. It's an idea that David would definitely appreciate. He would be glad that the shirts are no longer hanging unused in the closet!
    And from what I understand, on Christmas Day my sister's home was filled with lots of laughter coupled with the shedding of sweet tears. I'm pretty sure that was the case on both sides of heaven. 

 Here is the tag that accompanied each bear. My sister designed it and included a very special scripture that meant a great deal to her and her husband.

      It's a simple gift. Nothing too fancy and nothing too fine. Just a bear made out of an old shirt that belonged to someone they loved. A sweet way of remembering, wouldn't you agree?

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Big Reveal

    In the modern era, it is more common than not for couples to find out the gender of their baby before the birth occurs. It was not even an option for The Husband and me in three of my pregnancies and by the time we got to our fourth, we already had two boys and a girl, so finding out the sex of the baby beforehand was not of prime importance. In my own case, I can readily testify that learning whether you have given birth to a boy or girl at the moment of delivery is possibly the most wonderful surprise in life. However, today it seems that the vast majority of couples want to know ahead of time. And since technological advances have given us a window into the womb, if my children choose to find out the gender of their baby and are willing to share the news with us, then I am more than happy to forego the element of surprise.
   My eldest son and daughter-in-law planned a "gender reveal" for us the week before Christmas that proved to be a lot of fun. The plan was for both immediate families, his and hers, to gather at our house and enjoy a meal together. After the meal, my daughter-in-law promised that we would soon learn whether the grandbaby would be a boy or a girl.
    Here's how it played out. The two grandmothers had the honor of cutting the delicious homemade cake which contained a surprise. You can tell that we are just a wee bit excited.
 Those are the parents-to-be standing by to see our reaction.
In case you are wondering, we can't really tell anything yet...
 I'm still in the dark here...
 Can you tell that the other grandmother has figured it out?! I love her joy.
 Ahh...there is the proof. Our grandbaby will be a BOY!
I am hoping that May will get here sooner than later. 
I can't wait to meet this precious little one.
There are also some other little people in our family 
who are eagerly awaiting the arrival 
of a new cousin.
However, I think the biggest attraction that night was the idea of getting to eat some cake!
Recapping the moment!
Momma-to-be with her Momma!
The granddaddy-to-be and his girl!
Momma-to-be and her siblings!
The Daddy-to-be and his siblings sans one son-in-law...

And finally, here's the lovely couple with both sets of grandparents!

No matter the number of grandchildren, the joy is the same. Love has a marvelous
way of multiplying itself like a cup running over with the addition to the family of each little one.
We feel so very blessed.
I am mindful of the scripture I prayed before this first-born son of ours came into the world,
For this child I prayed and the Lord hath granted me the petition
I made unto Him, therefore, as long as he lives, he shall be given unto the Lord.
May it be so with the life of this little one.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Acts of Kindness

     A hospital is a study in contrasts. As a place of employment, it is a bustling place that never sleeps. While nighttime does bring an ebb and flow of sorts, the siren's wail, the beep and whir of endless machines, and the quiet voices of the nurses and technicians as they move about the hallways remind one that the business of caring for human life in its various stages forms the crux and the impetus for the hospital.
    The waiting rooms are filled with another kind of energy. The weariness on the faces of those who shift uncomfortably in already uncomfortable chairs does little to disguise the tension and emotion that simmer beneath the surface. When the phone rings and a volunteer announces a family, you can feel the room rise, shift, and settle much like a wave in a football stadium. Sometimes the waiting seems interminable and the passage of time moves at a snail's pace. I am glad that I am not there today. Waiting in a hospital can be a difficult thing. But not today; thankfully, not today.

Hospital hallway.
   Today I am thinking that I am especially thankful for the tender mercies and kindness of health professionals: physicians, nurses, technicians and volunteers...for care given that moves beyond competence to become compassion. For hands that move with skill coupled with gentleness. For the willingness to see each patient as an individual with unique and special attributes in addition to his or her medical needs. So often the medical issue seems to dominate, but the gifted health professional has the wisdom to see beyond the need of the person to the person with the need.
   I have spent some time in hospitals recently. Either as a patient myself or alongside someone who was receiving medical care. The kindness of those who care does make a difference. Today as I prayed, I found this meditation by Teresa of Avila tucked in a page in my Bible. I offer it to all those who labor in hospitals to make a difference in the life of someone in their care. May you be blessed in your endeavors.

May today there be peace within.
May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be.
May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith.
May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you.
May you be content knowing that you are a child of God.
Let His presence settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise
and love.
It is there for each and every one of you.
  Teresa of Avila