On the Edge of Two Worlds

I was casually listening to a sermon online, while doing some other stuff, when I heard the Pastor connect what he’d been speaking about to his own grief after losing his spouse. This always gets my attention. When someone has experienced a close loss, I always tune in to see what I can glean from their experience with grief. Anyway, his wife had also passed away from cancer, so that always connects my heart a little more, but he said something that resonated with me so strongly. He said that since his wife has passed he now feels like he’s living on the edge of two worlds. When I heard him say it, I looked at Chad and said “That’s it! That’s what we’re feeling!”

We can’t un-see what we’ve seen. We can’t ever go back to only thinking about the worldly, earthly, and temporary-not when such a big piece of our hearts has stepped across the threshold and now resides in the eternal. Honestly, I don’t want to.

Sure, grief sometimes clouds my earthly day to day thoughts and makes things “muddy,” but thank God that “grieving with hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13) makes the important things eternally clear. You’ve probably heard me say, or I have expressed even here, I am weird now. Well, I’ve always been a little weird, but even more so now. I spiritualize everything. Is that good? Is that bad? I don’t really know, but I know that there’s new lenses that have been placed on my eyes and I don’t think I could ever take them off. I choose to see it as a gift that has come with a great loss. Everywhere I look I see that Jesus is the answer to every problem.

There are so many things in nature, that point to the eternal. God is such a creative God, but He also seems to love patterns and He loves to reveal more of himself to us in the ordinary, that’s not so ordinary, when we dissect the complexity of what’s actually in front of our face. I recently read the social media post (please note, I haven’t done a lot of research) about YWHW, which is the Hebrew name of God, being encoded in our DNA. This may be old news?…I’m a little slow…Whether this is verified or not, the more we learn about science, the more we are unlocking the mystery of our Creator. That’s one reason why cancer is so evil. It’s an attack on a person’s DNA, which was created and written by God Himself. The enemy may have access here in this broken realm, but one day He no longer will.

Thank God that Jesus came and defeated death. Thank God that He’s promised and foretold to us through scripture that a New Earth is coming and until then-we get to be with Him in Heaven. Thank God that I see in my spirit-and in the eyes of my heart, our Sarah, surrounded by so many other’s that we love that have also gone before us. They’re in the most perfect place possible. I fully believe that the business of heaven is about Jesus and we know that He is in the business of restoring and redeeming all that is broken and lost.

So, I’ll reside here…in-between these worlds for as long as He allows. I’m determined to be a part of the business of heaven as much as possible though. It’s the only thing that offers any sort of fulfillment for my grieving heart. You’ll just have to put up with my weirdness. Lol!

Rebuilding

So, I’m a farmer’s daughter. I grew up doing chores-feeding livestock, bailing hay and straw, helping move livestock from one lot to the next. My brother would argue that I wasn’t always the best help, lol. I’m his little sister, so he always had to “out do” me right?! I was a 4H’er for several years and with some great help from my neighbors, I fell in love with sheep and caring for them. Springtime was glorious when it was lambing season! I loved bottle feeding the little lambs. I sure learned a lot about life and God’s creation because I grew up on a farm. My family continues to farm, right down the road and I’ve made jokes for years about our front yard being my “sheep lot.” Chad has never agreed. Lol.

Since we started GLOW Like Sarah and especially “Fire & Music” nights, I’ve been having a different dream for our front lot.  I’ve been seeing a barn.  Not just any barn, but one that glows and is filled with the sound of music and people, not animals.  A place that feels warm, inviting and safe. Safe for young people to come and ask questions, discover who they are meant to be, and be nurtured and cared for.

At first, Chad wasn’t having this same vision. That’s ok…I knew God would let him know when it was time and He did! Knowing ourselves well, we both struggled a bit with how we could build a barn and truly make it feel like “us.” We tend to like old things…things with character. Last fall we walked around the front yard as we day-dreamed about it. We got out the tape measure and discussed how big of a barn should we build? Flippantly, after measuring several different ways, I just said “I think it should be 50 x 40.” He just looked at me with a slight smirk on his face, but nothing was decided. We kept the dream just to ourselves for bit. We assumed a pole barn would have to do, but God has revealed a plan B-which of course, is really plan A in our dreams. We just didn’t know if it was possible, but hey, He’s the God of the impossible right?! Some dear friends happen to have a barn on some farm property that they no longer need, when we expressed to them our desire to have a barn for GLOW events, they offered it to us. We’ve been looking at old barns for bit, thinking we could salvage the wood to use on the inside of a pole barn, but this barn…it’s different. When Chad stepped inside the barn for the first time, he knew THIS was the barn. The structure is in pretty good shape. We think it’s about 120 years old. It’s a work of art and God loves to rebuild what has long been destroyed. We believe he wants to restore this barn and use it for His glory.

We began researching old barns and how to move them, dismantle them, etc….Hey, you can learn how to do anything on YouTube right?!  God is providing all the right people at all the right times, with the right tools and hearts for such a project.  Oh, and did I mention that when Chad measured the barn, it is 53 x 40?!  We know it’s not going to be easy. We know we’re going to learn a lot along the way. We also know that somehow this is part of our healing, but also the hope that we have for our community and this generation of young adults that has captured our hearts. God is drawing them to Him and His truth.

So, Colton Dixon has a song right now called Build a Boat.  After hearing about our project, a good friend shared with us that she now sings “I will build a barn” instead. Lol.  That’s how we feel.  We’re stepping out in faith and letting God lead us one step at a time to create this space…a sacred space.  It will be His to do whatever He wants.  We know He came in a barn the first time and we fully believe He wants to meet people again in a barn.  I think the Good Shepherd is going to meet us here often.  So, you could sort of say, I’m even getting my sheep lot!

Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.

Matthew 13:30 NIV
frozen wave against sunlight

Preparing to Let Go

To my friends who have recently lost or are preparing to lose their children…my heart is hurting for you.  This is not a time for platitudes and my words may mean nothing during this traumatic time and that’s ok.  I certainly am not the expert in how to prepare for such a loss.  I’ve walked a similar path, but no two stories are ever the same.  Your unique relationship with your child is precious and I know the thought of not having the tangible physical presence of your child takes your breath away.  Honestly, it still takes mine away at times, when I’m missing my girl.  I’ll offer some simple statements and pray that somehow you will be strengthened.

This is NOT the end of your child.  They are “arrows:”

Psalms 127:4:  Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth.

I wrote a blog about it here.  Our lives are not time-lines with an end.  You’re sending your child into eternity ahead of you, but they will live on with a future and a purpose. You will have more days ahead of you with your child in eternity, than you’ll ever have apart, if heaven is where you’re headed too.

I know you know this, but it’s worth saying….don’t wait to say what you want to say.  Soak up every minute you have left with them.  Hold them, smell them, look into their eyes and their souls and make sure they know how wonderful they are and how brave they have been.  No regrets.  However, it’s ok to leave the room for a minute.  In her last days, sometimes Sarah needed a break from me.  I had to respect that and give her time alone with other loved ones.  It was hard.  More often though, she wanted me right by her side and that time was precious.  We did everything possible to honor her and her wishes. 

Don’t take your eyes off Jesus.  I recently watched the end of season 3 of The Chosen series…spoiler alert here…They include the bible story of Peter walking on the water and they took some artistic liberties to connect it to the topic of Peter and Eden’s grief of losing a child.  Wow…did that hit me hard!  Losing a child feels so much like being in the boat in the middle of the storm.  Somehow, Chad and I have chosen to get out of the boat and just walk towards Jesus.  I imagine Sarah standing next to Him and His hands reaching out to us.  We want to go to him too, but our journey towards him is still full of things left here to do.  When I look at the waves and wind, I sink, but when I lock eyes with Him and remember who He is….somehow I rise above the storm.  He’s got you too, friend.  He won’t let go.  You will hear many people express that they could never imagine losing a child.  We can’t either.  We are living and surviving the impossible.  You can too. 

Your child will receive healing soon.  It’s disappointing that it’s probably not going to be an earthly healing.  It’s perfectly ok to get mad about that, but always be honest with God about your feelings.  He knows when you’re pretending and He can take it.  It doesn’t change His feelings towards you.  He knows what’s it’s like to give up a son.  He knows that you can’t see the end of the story yet.  Believe in your heart that you can trust Him with your child.  As hard as it is too imagine, He loves your child even more than you do.  Let that sink in.  Along with a heavenly healing comes so much more than we could ever give them here.  I have found comfort in realizing that there’s a lot of things that happen here that she will never have to suffer through because she is in heaven. She is protected forevermore and she is only experiencing complete and perfect love, joy and peace.  I believe it will takes us about 2 seconds in heaven to forget all the pain that this world caused.

I wish I could tell you that eventually the pain will lesson.  Over time you will learn to carry the pain differently.  You will get stronger, but it won’t lessen it.  You somehow grow around it.  One of the best analogies that I’ve related to is that it is sort of like having an amputation.  You learn to live a part from them, but not without them.   It’s not easy at all.   You’ll need help sometimes, but that’s ok.  Other parents who’ve lost children connect deeply with each other because not many people understand.   Reach out when you’re ready and you’ll be embraced. 

overhead view of white pumpkin in wicker basket

Numb

Grief has a way of interrupting so many things in my life.  So excuse me, for not always making my thoughts flow well and with clarity.  You see, my brain is still sometimes foggy and my memory is terrible-except for the stuff that I want to forget, but I can’t.  I have no concept of “real time.”  I walked around for a few days saying that Chad and I would be celebrating 26 years of marriage…until a friend corrected me and said, “Ugh, isn’t it 28?”  She was right.  In many ways I feel like I’ve lost 2 years of my life.  People that know my story have been so gracious to me in so many ways, but I’m sure there have been many a stranger that thought I was either on drugs or just plain crazy.  I sometimes have no memory of completing task or managing responsibilities.  Somehow, with God’s help, things have gotten done and I haven’t completely wrecked our home. 

I wish I could get motivated.  Motivated to care about things like:  being organized, cooking for my family, cleaning (no worries, I do shower and de-clutter occasionally), exercising- or even just being health.  I used to love to work out.  Now, I just don’t care.  I wonder if I will ever care about such things again?  Poor Libby…I miss every parent deadline, permission slip sign-up, volunteer opportunity, and am terrible about getting events on the family calendar that she’s involved in.  At home, I literally am taking it one day at a time.  I’m thankful for a husband and responsible daughter who understand and help out with the household. 

I’ve decided the best way to describe this stage is that I’m just plain numb.  I don’t want to feel right now.  I don’t want to feel sad.  I don’t want to feel happy.   I don’t want to feel anything.  So, I don’t.  I react to life’s situations, but only on the surface.  I know that I’m guarding this fragile heart of mine, while it’s trying to heal.  This is probably the place where some who are grieving may find ways to help them stay in the state of numb by turning to substance abuse.  I’m not enticed by that option for several reasons, but I certainly understand how someone may go there.  Unfortunately, that path leads to more loss and just starts a cycle that is so hard to break.  It’s a trap. If you’re stuck in that cycle. Please ask for help.

I’m not so numb that my emotions don’t occasionally break through.  So, I guess that’s a good thing.  I have moments where my tears come hard and fast.  It hurts.  It hurts like hell.  The band-aid rips off my heart and it falls apart again and I bleed.  It doesn’t last as long as it used to and it doesn’t happen as much, but it still happens.  I guess that makes me human. 

There is a comfort that comes in those moments though.  It’s not from another person; because…trust me, I make sure I’m alone during those times. It’s the ultimate “Comforter.” (John 14:26)   There’s a calm reassurance and presence that wraps around my heart and squeezes it back together.  He gently places the bandage of Hope over my scar and whisper’s “I’m here and I’ve got you.”  You know what?  He’s got Sarah too.  He holds us both.  That vision gives me so much strength.  So, for now, I’ll focus on that.

I’ve been drawn to the cemetery a few times lately in the early mornings, after taking Libby to school.  I guess I know the cold weather is coming and it won’t be as easy to go.  I took a white pumpkin to her gravesite and left it.  Every year, that was her choice.  She loved those white pumpkins.  I can’t see one and not think of her and all that her life represents now. I understand that not everyone is a fan of celebrating Halloween.  When we think about the process of creating a jack-a-lantern though, isn’t it a bit symbolic of what Jesus wants for us?  When we invite Him in, he cleans out all the yucky stuff and puts a light inside of us that others can see.

I love that as I’m driving off out the cemetery in Hope that I can always see the empty tomb.  That reminder…gives me just the boost that I need to keep driving.   

person marking his calendar

September

Oh September, how I despise you now.  Once, you represented a beautiful season of life to me, but now I dread seeing you on my calendar.  Once you were a month full of back to school routines, Labor Day fun, fall festival planning, and anniversary trips.  Now, the sense of dread I feel as you approach makes my stomach turn in knots.  I don’t usually feel such animosity towards things, but I can’t help myself as I am taken back to our loss and the day that my heart was torn in pieces.

How can it be 2 whole years without our girl?  730 days of waking up and remembering that she’s gone.  730 days… but her hospital bag is still packed and sitting by my bed.  It still feels like yesterday.  I’m still not used to being here without her.  I can’t imagine that I ever will be.  September, why was this her time to go? 

Her high school class is now seniors.  As I am starting to see all of their senior pictures and plans for their futures, it’s easy to celebrate with them, because they are all amazing young adults; but… it still hurts.  I wonder what she looks like in heaven.  730 days and I’ve only seen her once in a dream and she never looked at me or spoke.  I don’t think it was really her.  Other people have shared their dreams of her with me, which I am always so grateful for.  I just want to hear her giggle and say “Mom! It’s been 730 days without hearing her.

September, you always signaled to me that change was coming and this time you really meant it.  So much is different now. I was so comfortable with how things were.  I still can’t get comfortable with this new normal.  There’s no rest for a momma when her child is missing.  Sure, we try to fill our days with a routine, but something is always “off.”  This change was not welcomed and I can’t seem to adapt. All I can do is put one foot in front of the other and keep moving forward. Sometimes though, especially on September 5th, I just can’t.

September, you make the days shorter, but the nights are becoming longer.  I don’t like the night.  That’s when I miss her the most.  My eyes still fill with tears often as I lay awake and miss her and my memory still replays the trauma of our loss.  My favorite time is the morning.  I’m eager in the mornings to spend time reading and studying.  It’s also safe to turn on my worship music because Chad and Libby have to wake up any way. That’s where I feel closest to heaven.

September, none of this is your fault.  It’s just the way that it’s going to be.  I don’t know any way around you or September 5th…  If I did, I’d certainly take it.  I’m not sure how many September 5ths I’ll have to endure before I’m reunited with Sarah.  All I know is every night before I fall asleep, I tell myself I’m one day closer to heaven.  Until then, I’ll keep asking to dream about her and I’ll keep looking for ways to remember her all year long, not just in September. 

The New Me

I was able to collect some beautiful seashells on a recent trip to Florida. I started out looking for the perfect shells and then sensed God telling me to pick up the broken ones…they’re beautiful too. I needed that reminder. Sometimes I miss the old me.  The person I was before Sarah’s diagnosis of cancer.  I started to write that I missed the person that I was before she died, but truth is, the day we walked into the children’s hospital and started fighting cancer, was the day that the old me died.  You know that girl, the one that was so carefree and lighthearted–the one that was oblivious to deep pain and disappointment.  Sure I had suffered some losses, but none like the loss that Sarah’s cancer caused…everything changed.  Pediatric cancer is such a giant that it takes all of your focus.  It required me to give up my job, some of my friends, some of my dreams, serving others at church, and other things that were once important to me.  In a lot of ways I had to put my marriage, my other daughter, and all the other things that once seemed so urgent to the side and focus on the fight.  What a fight it was: long hospital stays away from home; hours of stressful waiting and researching, so that you can advocate for your child; lack of sleep on an actual bed; lack of normal routine; or even healthy eating; little to no exercise; being exposed to witnessing your own child and also other children and families suffering horrible side effects and treatments just to give them a chance to survive; and feeling helpless the whole entire time.   Every single family fighting this battle becomes warriors and it changes you…just like the young person who signs up to serve in the military.  They’re always so naïve and innocent, until they experience active duty.  You can’t survive a battle and walk away without some wounds.  Those wounds can heal, but you’ll always have the scars. 

So, that’s me today.  With the deep wound of grief and other scars from the trauma of losing a daughter to pediatric cancer.  As one by one I’ve watched other warrior families lose their children or relapse, it causes deep sadness and always takes me back to those traumatic moments that we lived.  I’m not in any way implying that I don’t want to know about their journeys.  I do want to know, but I’ve come to accept that is just the way this works.  I can relate to their struggle on a whole other level than the “normal” person.  Just like the military veteran, who seeks out other veterans to connect with, there is definitely a connection with those other cancer warriors.  To be honest though, if it’s a newly diagnosed situation or someone that’s still in the “thick of it,” I wonder if my scars scare them?  I know that even being around me, or us (I’m speaking for Chad and Libby here too, I guess) is sometimes hard for others.  Especially, if you haven’t been around us very much.   Hopefully, if know us well, or are willing to hang out with us for a bit, you’re getting more use to the new me/us. 

Yeah, part of me is gone. Good or bad, there are some new things though that have been added to my personality.   There’s a quietness that I know will always be there.  There are deep and somber moments that just hit and I have no control over it.  There is also a deeper sense of purpose and determination to not chase after anything that isn’t truly important, even eternal.  There’s courage because honestly, I’m just not afraid of death.  There’s a deep sense of the spiritual that I know has only come because of the encounters I’ve had with Jesus through this journey.  Yeah, it’s probably made me weird and I’m OK with that.  Just like Psalms 23 promises, He has walked me through this “valley of the shadow of death.”  Actually, I think at times, He’s carrying me. 

Sausage Burrito

When you’re grieving for someone that you lived with–someone who was part of your “normal” every day living, for a while it clouds every aspect of living. It’s as if you go through the motions, but the “inner” you is watching life go on– all the while screaming “This isn’t right!…None of this is normal or ok…..Stop!”…..Sometimes you do stop and give in to the tantrum, but sometimes you manage to ignore the cry of your heart and push through. I suppose we do it for the sake of others. It really is a terrible thing to make others sad just by being around them. Other times we push through because we know we need to find a way to live the new normal—to try and find moments of reprieve from the cloud, to not be so far inside our heads that we miss this life that is still happening all around us. So, we manage to have moments of living, but not without some serious effort and a constant loss of innocence that taints every good moment. There’s always the realization that those moments can be gone in a flash. We are never guaranteed another tomorrow. I’d like to say that makes me appreciate the good times more, but sometimes the bitterness wins and I just feel cheated. Regardless of the bitterness, I know better than to carelessly let a moment pass without recognizing it’s importance. That’s the problem of grief, it makes every normally menial task somehow seem important.

In my grief, I try to find ways to connect and honor Sarah even in my every day moments. Maybe I’m holding on to tightly. Maybe, at this point, I’m just hanging on. However, I know that when I find a way to include things that meant something to her, it makes me feel better. Today, I ordered a breakfast burrito from McDonald’s and stuck the round “sausage” sticker in a funny place. She did that to me all the time. I’d find them hidden in the funniest places. When I’d find them, she’d laugh so hard and was so proud of herself for being so clever. Today it made me smile to remember her sense of humor. Tomorrow, the same memory may make me cry. I have no way of knowing which one it may be. That’s ok. I’ll still find a way in the “new” normal of my day to connect and remember her. If the tears come, I’ll let them. After all, their only purpose is here on earth and their days are numbered.

The Pandemic of Grief

Friends, we are in a season of grief. Every week, there is loss. Because of COVID almost all of us have experienced the death of a friend, family member, or at the least you are hearing stories of acquaintances who have passed away. Many of these are seemingly healthy people, prior to contracting COVID, and sadly they are people who seemed to still be in the prime of their life, possibly with young children. I don’t feel led to address any stance on COVID precautions. We all know the tools that are available to help us fight this horrible pandemic. I’m also not trying to spread fear. At this point, we also know the risk of COVID. I simply feel led to address the topic of grief and loss and its hard to deny the increasing number of folks who are joining the “grief club.” In a way, it’s becoming a pandemic itself. It’s shocking and heartbreaking to see so many families hurting and I can’t help but contemplate the effects of grief on our current society. Realizing that everyone’s grief journey is different, I do think there are a few things that I have learned on my own journey that I’d like to share.

Grieving people will never be who they were before their loved one died. Losing a loved one causes you to lose a piece of yourself and I’m convinced that it’s a piece of your heart. I remember the person that I was before Sarah died, untainted by death. I laughed more, I focused better, I slept better, I ate better, and my priorities were different. I may not seem different to many of you, but to my family, they can tell. There’s an innocence’s that is lost when death steals away someone that you love. It’s as if the unthinkable actually occurred and there is a distrust of statistics and reasoning. I give no weight to percentages now when I hear them used to minimize a risk. I just can’t help it.

Grieving people need space to just be. Don’t expect them to attend family functions or keep appointments regularly. Sometime, even in route to something planned, a wave of grief comes out of no where and just paralyzes me. Please give grace to those who are adjusting to a new normal. Grieving people often just feel sick themselves. The aches and pains of grief can make you feel like you’ve ran a marathon or even have the flu. The lack of sleep can also cause a grieving person to feel less than themselves. If you’re grieving, some days it’s OK if the most that you accomplish is getting out of bed and doing some self-care, like eating, showering, or taking an extra nap. Grieving people need time to work through the trauma of their loss-some more than others. If you are a friend, co-worker, or supervisor of someone who is grieving. Please give them some margin. Sooner or later, you’ll be in their position of grief too.

Grieving people need to know that you are available to talk about and remember their loved one. Please don’t be afraid to say their loved ones name and share memories or special things about their person. I realize that this may cause you to be concerned that you may upset them or make them sad, but honestly they already are both those things. They may actually need someone one else to validate their loss and feelings. It’s more hurtful when others do not acknowledge the loss that you feel. Tears are not always an indication that a grieving person is having a bad day. Sometimes tears are exactly the thing needed to have a better day. Trust me when I say that is a gift to them to even just speak their name. There are exceptions to this rule. So, don’t be too pushy and just follow their lead after you mention their loved one.

Grieving people need forgiveness. That’s right. I said forgiveness. Grieving people will not always make the right choices. They will do things that are hurtful, selfish, impulsive, irresponsible… I could go on and on. You see, the hurt is heavy and grieving people are just trying to stop the hurt, hide the hurt, or forget about the hurt for a while. Grief shouldn’t entitle us to hurt others on purpose and there are consequences to bad choices, obviously. It’s ok to set boundaries with a grieving person, if they are not respecting you. However, just be aware that extra grace is needed when maintaining a healthy relationship with a grieving person. Watch for indications that professional grief counseling may be necessary and encourage them to seek further help.

Grieving people need Jesus. I follow different types of grief support groups on social media. There are some grief support groups that do not tolerate any sort of faith-based approach to grieving. It honestly is so dismal. I’m even more confounded by it because most will admit that their loved one is still a spiritual being. They believe that their soul/spirit has moved on somewhere and they may even believe in heaven, but they will not acknowledge Jesus. Friends, Jesus is the only one to defeat death. He is the key to heaven. He is the way, the truth, and the life. Unless we humble ourselves and accept His payment for our sins, we will not receive eternal life in heaven. Submitting our lives to Him, not only gives us the hope of heaven, but it provides joy, peace, and purpose for us now, here on earth.

Even on my darkest day, I can know, because of Jesus, that I will be reunited with Sarah someday. Even on my darkest day, I can know that the Holy Spirit will comfort me and give me strength to endure the sadness. Even on my darkest day, I can still feel joy. I may be sad for myself because I miss Sarah, but I can know that she is experiencing pure joy and happiness. Even on my darkest day, I know that death has been defeated and one day, it will not exist. God is patient, but there will be a day that every knee will bow before Him and every tongue will confess that He is Lord.(Philippians 2:10-11) If you’re still not sure about Jesus, I encourage you to research Him for yourself.

Me, Without You

Some days I just can’t-

look at your pictures,

listen to your voice,

hold your things,

hear your songs…

Not because I don’t miss you,

but because I miss you so much.

Some days I can-

look in your eyes,

listen to your laugh,

smell your scent,

and sing along-

Because I miss you and

it seems like you’ve been gone so long.

Some days I just can’t

breathe

or even make myself move

the weight of missing you

sits on my chest like a giant rock

and won’t let me up until I sob.

It’s suddenly like we just lost you

and I can’t believe you’re gone.

Some days I can-

go with a friend for a while,

leave my house and shop in a store,

go outside and watch the clouds,

But, even when I do-

I’m always missing you.

Though your death isn’t new

It will never be normal.

The complexities of grief

have made me different.

Which version of me, without you,

will I be today?

Reflections On Our Trip

Life goes on, but my heart still hurts. We knew that after the hard past couple of years, that we needed to move forward and take a family trip. Usually family vacations are so fun to plan and there’s so much to look forward too, but when you’re grieving, even vacation planning looses it’s excitement. It becomes one of those things that you know is good for you, but you’re just not feeling it. So you commit to doing it, just because you ought too. It’s like so many things, when you’re grieving-bittersweet. It’s just not the way that we imagined our life would be. Visions of future “bucket-list” vacations always included Sarah. However, we knew it was time to take this step towards reality and go.

So, we planned at family vacation out west. I planned the drive, the hotels, the VRBO’s, the National Parks, the extra stops. We decided to invite one of Libby’s closest friends, Sam, to come along. Thankfully, her parents were willing to entrust us with her for 2 whole weeks. I’m so glad that they did. Big life events, holidays, and vacations just magnify “the missing” for all of us, especially siblings. Libby has suddenly been forced to take on the role of “only child” of two grieving parents. That’s a hard job. We’re doing our best not to smother her and respect her 14 year old introverted self, but it’s hard not to be a helicopter parent. It’s our job to fix what’s broken for her, but this time, we can’t.

I can honestly say it was a good trip. We saw things that were just so beautiful-places that we have been wanting to see for years. We took lots of pictures, saw lots of animals, laughed, ate too much, and had fun. We also felt a deep ache in our hearts that I will compare to being “home sick.” Although, we knew when we arrived home, it wasn’t going to be alleviated. It’s a longing for how home used to be.

It’s no surprise that I pray a lot for God to give me signs from Sarah. I also say things to Sarah out loud sometimes, just in case she can hear me. When you’re missing someone that’s in heaven, you know that they’re ok, but you still want signs that they are still with you somehow.

One day, while sightseeing in Glacier National Park, we were driving along and came by this beautiful crystal blue lake that was so still that it had a mirrored reflection of the snow capped mountains in it. As he often did, Chad quickly pulled over to park and get out and just take it all in. I jumped out of the truck and started taking pictures. He noticed another couple also had stopped and as he does so naturally, he struck up a conversation with the man. He told Chad that he and his wife were retired ranchers from North Dakota and they now lived closer to this area. He said they come to Glacier a lot, and they took this particular drive about every 2 weeks. He said he had never seen it so still. He even told Chad that usually the waves in the lake were white capping because of the wind. So they also were amazed at the beautiful reflections in the mirrored water. I snapped several pictures with the phone camera, trying to frame the shots exactly like I wanted. It wasn’t until I reviewed the pictures that I saw it. This beautiful glow of light that seemed to build in a few of the images, until this magnificent bright image showed up on the picture. Again, none of this was viewable as I took the pictures. I knew right away that it was a sign. I zoomed in to look at the light…It was more breathtaking to me then the gorgeous mountains. All I could do was say thanks! Thank you, Jesus and Sarah, for letting us know that she was with us on our trip. Not the way that we exactly long for, but in a way that is better for her. I know she’s healed, free, and in perfect peace and paradise.

I’ll keep asking for signs this side of heaven. She’s a part of me and I can’t help it. What exactly did I see? I’ll let you interpret that for yourself. You may not see what I see, but that’s ok. What signs have you experienced from your loved one that has passed?