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I Am So Grateful ….

1 Nov

Here is my latest piece on Gratitude,  written for THE EDGE magazine  ….

There are many things I am grateful for but what I want to focus on here is the gratitude that I have for my oldest daughter Elizabeth.  Our relationship has weathered so many emotional experiences for both of us – from total elation on the day of her birth, complete awe and exhilaration during her growing up years, to anxiousness and outright fear and complete despair during her teenage years, to absolute shock and total sadness at her sudden departure, and finally the learning and growth we have both experienced as we sought to establish and maintain our present relationship on both sides of the veil.  I often wonder which one of us has learned the most through our experiences of the last 29 years.

 

I have come to believe that Elizabeth and I made a soul contract before we both came into this lifetime.  We each agreed upon the scenario that was put before us, always with the understanding that we were each free to exercise our own free will to change the agreed upon learning scenarios that we had set up in Spirit.

 

What also brings me to my knees many times over is my deep gratitude and appreciation for the role that The Divine has played in our lives.  Spirit truly has been the third person behind the scenes in so many ways.  God opened the doors for both of us and presented us with many opportunities to learn, grow and love.  What more can one ask for on a return visit to this earth plane? It has always been our own choice as to whether we would accept the challenge put before us, or to decide that no, this is something I’m not willing to do.  And saying no is never right nor is it wrong– it is merely a different choice.

 

The times when I doubted myself, doubted Liz and even doubted the Divine were all learning experiences.  When I said, “Yes, I’m in” and I prepared in earnest and was able to complete the divine task given me, I was rewarded by a complete sense of love, validation and confirmation that what I see and feel is real.  The feeling that you have pleased The Divine is a feeling of exhilaration like no other; it is as close to pure joy as one can achieve on this earth …. I can scarcely comprehend how wonderful this feeling must be in Spirit.

 

Gratitude appears in many forms.  Once a task has been completed, I anxiously await my next assignment.  However, my next assignment may not present itself for some time.  Continuous communication through prayer and meditation with The Divine is reward in itself when it becomes a daily practice.  You no longer feel alone – but you are guided every minute of every day by a force more powerful than any other – Love.  When you learn to live in love, view the world and everyone in it in love, life becomes a joyous adventure.

 

To check out more from THE EDGE – click this link:  http://edgemagazine.net/2012/11/i-am-so-grateful-2/

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The New Me is Someone I Never Expected!

5 Sep

My latest article written for THE EDGE  http://edgemagazine.net/2012/09/the-new-me-is-someone-i-never-expected/

In a few weeks  my 40th high school class reunion will take place.  Those who haven’t seen me in 40 years will be shocked and a bit surprised when they meet “the new me.”

In high school I was extremely shy and a complete introvert.  I felt awkward and didn’t feel like I fit in anywhere.  Of course, looking back now, I know that wasn’t true – but at that point in my young life it was definitely my perception.

Very early on I made some decisions that were in my book, non-negotiable.  Public speaking was at the very top of my list.  I can remember giving speeches in high school and my knees would shake and my hands would quiver, and I was so nervous I couldn’t even think straight.

Things have changed dramatically for me through the years.  I am more outgoing now and open to meeting new people and creating new experiences; which is what time and living life bring about.

There is a saying that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks … and sometimes I guess that is true.  But what I’ve come to realize is that if the old dog is willing … anything is possible.

Never in a million years could I ever have imagined that I would bury my 20-year old daughter.  It was not the right order of things, and it still isn’t.   It was non-negotiable … but it happened and suddenly I had to incorporate it into my life, make peace with it, and work through all of the painful emotions to find joy again and a life worth living.

Once I accepted the reality of my daughter’s death, it was easier for other things that I had once considered non-negotiable to be held up for change.   Because of the strong connection that I still shared with Elizabeth I had an extreme sense of gratitude to God and The Universe at large.  I was no longer a stiff board of do’s and do not’s.  My life became malleable and I was molded into something far greater than I could have ever imagined.  There is a saying that God can dream a dream bigger than you can ever dream for yourself.   I can see this so clearly in my life since that fateful day in September, 2003.

Public speaking has now become something that I do at every opportunity.  And my topic is always the same – the most painful experience of my life – the death of my daughter, my journey through it and coming out the other side and back to embracing and loving life again.

The first time I spoke I had practiced for months and questioned my sanity daily.  How can I possibly speak in front of strangers about the most painful time of my life?  In truth, I didn’t know.  All l knew was that my story was important and sharing it could be the catalyst for others to view their own life situations in a different way.  I also was confident that if I did everything I could to prepare, The Divine would step in to help me.

This certainly was the case.  In fact, when I finished that first talk, I felt the strongest sense of accomplishment I have ever felt … it was a complete sense of euphoria.  Spirit had asked me to step up and I had done so.  Not without some fear and trepidation — but with the knowing that I would receive help whenever I needed it.  The strong presence of my daughter permeates my very being whenever I share our story.  In a sense we have become a team and we work together from both sides of the veil to help others.  For me, there is no greater calling.

What will the next 40 years bring?  I don’t know, but I look forward to whatever adventures Spirit sends my way!  Life is JOYOUS!

Life Lessons

2 May

Please welcome guest blogger, Dave Roberts!

I don’t know if I can point to the one most important lesson that I have learned in my life, thus far. Since my daughter Jeannine died on 3/1/03 at the age of 18 of a rare and aggressive form of cancer, many teachings /lessons have made themselves known to me. All of these lessons/teachings have helped me progress from the raw pain of my early grief to adjusting to a world without the physical presence of my daughter. These teachings have redefined me and in the process allowed me to develop a relationship with Jeannine based on pure, unconditional love. I have also been blessed with a supportive group of family and friends who have supported the expression of my experience as I see fit. They don’t view it as good or bad and neither do I. One of the lessons that I have learned in my journey following Jeannine’s death is that labeling an experience prevents us from appreciating fully the lessons inherent in that experience. Labeling someone’s grief experience as good or bad does not allow us to fully appreciate and learn from the challenges that they have encountered along the way.
I have been an addiction professional for 27 years and have also observed the impact of diagnostic labels on how we view clients/patients that we encounter. If we buy into the stigmas associated with labeling, our resulting biases will never allow us to get a complete picture of how the client sees the world and the inherent strengths that they bring to therapy.

Here are some other lessons that I have learned in the years since Jeannine’s death

Doing what we perceive to be the right thing does not guarantee a life that is pain free: Before Jeannine’s illness and death, I always thought that if I worked hard and did the right thing, that God would protect me and my family from harm. However, as God and my experience as a bereaved parent has taught me there are no guarantees in life. Life isn’t about being fair and unfair; it is about learning to negotiate the many challenges that are presented along the way. If we can successfully negotiate these challenges, we develop resiliency and a renewed sense of purpose. We learn to get stronger at the broken places.

There is a difference between entitlement and gratitude: In the early part of my grief journey, I regularly questioned God as to why He chose me and my family to bear the burden of burying one of our family members at such a young age. After all, we had always done the right thing in our lives; because of that we were entitled not to bear this burden of grief. I soon discovered that there were many more parents whose children predeceased them. Connecting with them helped me learn gratitude for having them in my life and gratitude for the present moment.
There is spirit in everything and in everything there is spirit: Many parents that I know have been graced with signs from their children (as have I). Let the signs that you experience not only validate that our children are with us in a different from of energy, but allow you to see yourself as a truly spiritual being. If we can commit to this way of life, it allows us to see life and death differently. We can change our perspective on life and death, if we choose to do so.

All of these lessons have changed how I view the world. I am not the person I was before Jeannine’s death and frankly I don’t know if I could identify with that person. I have become a more loving, spiritual and centered individual as a result of the struggle with Jeannine’s death. Does it mean that I miss her physical presence any less or that I have achieved closure (a process that doesn’t apply to our journeys after the death of our children)? Absolutely not! My journey as a parent who has experienced the death of a child will be life long. I know that I can revisit the emotional pain of Jeannine’s death at anytime. Today, I don’t have the same dread about re-experiencing it. I am, however, more conscious of it and try to discover what my pain is trying to teach me. We can learn from everything, if we are open to it.

David J. Roberts, LMSW, CASAC, became a bereaved parent after his daughter Jeannine died of cancer on 3/1/03 at the age of 18. He has been employed in the addictions field for 27 years and is also an adjunct professor in the psychology and psychology-child life departments at Utica College, Utica, New York. Mr. Roberts also developed a topics course on Parental Bereavement issues, and teaches a Death, Dying and Bereavement course for Utica College. He is a volunteer for Hospice and Palliative Care, Inc, in New Hartford, New York and a member of the All Inclusive Care for Children Coalition.

Be sure to check out Dave’s website: http://bootsyandangel.blogspot.com/

How to Celebrate Hope!

12 Mar

Welcome guest blogger — Heather Von St. James!

Finding out you have cancer is not an experience that most people would celebrate, and I was no exception. It seemed particularly unfair that the diagnosis came just three and a half months after the birth of my precious daughter. This was my first child. It should have been a time of great fun and delight.

Instead of congratulations, I was presented with the devastating diagnosis of malignant pleural mesothelioma on November 25, 2005. This is an extremely aggressive cancer with a dismal survival rate. Why me? Why now? Then it hit me: why not me? When would be a good time?

I decided not to give in to despair, but to meet this disease head-on. I had a beautiful daughter to bring up. I wanted to be there for her first day of kindergarten and her final day of high school. I wanted to witness her walk down the aisle on her wedding day. I wanted to rejoice with her on the birth of her own children. I wanted to be there to cheer her on through good times and bad.

I had to beat this cancer in order to do that. I had to keep hope alive and well and fighting for me every minute of every day. This started with a referral to a leading mesothelioma doctor who started the process of replacing terror and despair with hope.

Along with hope, I turned to laughter. The day of my surgery happened to be Ground Hog’s Day. What better name for the tumor than Punxsutawney Phil? This was one groundhog that should never see his shadow! We began to celebrate Groundhogs Day, renaming it Lungleaving Day. That was the day my diseased left lung was removed. It left, taking with it the tumor. Good riddance. Don’t look back. It has been a long road, but each day is celebrated as a victory. We laugh a lot at our house. We love a lot, too.

Along the way I have met so many courageous and delightful individuals. I wouldn’t have known these new friends if I hadn’t received that diagnosis, awful as it seemed then. I’ve dedicated my life to celebrating hope, for me, for all other cancer survivors, and for all other people who’ve been diagnosed with this disease. Hope for the patients and their families, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, cousins, uncles and aunts. Hope for all of my new friends. Hope for myself, and most especially, hope for my little girl.

My life has a new sense of purpose and fulfillment. I want to help others who face this diagnosis and work toward recovery. Laughter rings through the house on a regular basis. On that day years ago, I could not have guessed the joys that would come to us because we are in this fight. Hope is a rare and precious gift. It’s also free to anyone who needs it. You just have to reach out to the person next to you, give a smile or a hug, welcome the new day with thankfulness, and have a laugh ready for tough moments. Laughter and tears and the hugs of loved ones get you through the days.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Heather Von St James is a mesothelioma survivor and a guest blogger for  the Mesothelioma  Cancer Alliance. Her          story is one of hope and inspiration and she hopes to spread her message to  anyone who may be  going through similar situations to her own.

Check  out Heather’s story on the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance Blog. http://www.mesothelioma.com/blog/authors/heather/

Open to Hope Radio

24 Oct

 
      I will be a guest on Open to Hope Radio with Dr. Heidi Horsley and

      Dr. Gloria Horsley on Thursday, November 10th at 11:00 am CST!  

 

Wake Me Up When September Ends?

12 Aug

In a few short days,  the month of September will be upon us.  As I type these words, I can physically feel my stomach flip-flopping and a knot beginning to form.  What’s wrong with September you ask?  Technically … nothing  … I do enjoy the last days of summer and the soon-to-be fall weather.

But my oldest daughter’s birthday and the day she died are both in the month of September.  September brings up so many memories … both the good and the painful.

On September 12th my Elizabeth would be 28 years old.  What would she be doing with her life, I so often wonder.  Where would she be living, what career would she have chosen?  Would she be married?  Would she have any children?  Would she have dealt with the demons that plagued her in the last years of her life?  These are all questions that will forever remain unanswered.

On September 20th we will mark the eighth anniversary of her death as well as the deaths of Amanda and Brian, two of her six roommates.  Three young lives gone in an instant as the result of a fire in their old wooden duplex just a few blocks from the University of Minnesota where they were all just beginning their adult lives.  So much promise … so many dreams and hopes gone in an instant.

So, what do I do?  I could continue to focus on what is no longer possible … and, trust me, I do that on occasion.  I think it’s necessary and I owe it to Liz.  To sweep it all under the rug and pretend it never happened not only is a disservice to my daughter, but it is also a disservice to me.  Revisiting the pain is necessary and part of my grieving process.  The key, however, is only to visit, not remain stuck in it.

What is also necessary is to focus on the twenty years I had with my daughter.  The times she made me laugh, made me smile, made me so mad I could hardly see straight — the good times as well as the bad.  I remember that Elizabeth’s life was so much more than the way that she died.  In the end, all I can do is smile because when it is all said and done the only thing that really matters is how much we love each other.  Love wins out over pain and heartache in the end.

There is a song by Green Day called, Wake Me Up When September Ends.  My husband has commented that he would like nothing better than to go to sleep on August 31st and wake up on October 1st.  And, even though I breathe a big sigh of relief when the calendar turns to October, I would never wish not to have September.

So in a few days I will focus on remembering.  I will honor her each and every day  – in some small ways and maybe even some big ways.  I will celebrate her and love her for what she is and will always be, my beloved first-born daughter.  Death can never change that – nor can it erase the love that we will always share.

“It is better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all.”  Alfred Lord Tennyson

The Hospice Effect

24 May

        I had been thinking about becoming a hospice volunteer for a while. It would come to me as a passing thought every now and then that I would consider for a bit and then put aside. Little did I know just how soon and how clearly my indecision would be reconciled.

Our local hospice house is on the outskirts of town on what used to be a farm place. There is a windmill and a few trees but farm fields mostly surround the house.   And, it looks like a home – not a place of death. I had tour a shortly before it opened, but had no other contact with it, other than to read the obituaries of many a local who had spent their last days and hours there.

I had become familiar with death in the most painful of ways. My oldest daughter, Elizabeth, died in 2003 from smoke inhalation from to a fire in her duplex just a few blocks from the University of Minnesota where she had just begun her sophomore year. It truly was  a “baptism by fire” and an experience I wouldn’t wish on the fiercest of enemies.

Almost eight years have passed since that fateful day, and I have come to accept that the physical presence of my beautiful daughter is gone forever. Her spirit, however, continues to burn bold and bright in my life, giving me the needed comfort and peace I so desperately sought in those early days, weeks and months.

My 82-year-old mother-in-law, Betty, had several health problems, but she managed them completely on her own, and she lived in a beautiful apartment just a few blocks from our home. She didn’t leave home much, but she was fiercely independent and had a love for family that could not be rivaled.

On April 2nd, Betty was busy in her kitchen when she made a sudden turn, lost her balance, and fell to the floor. Luckily, she had a lifeline around her neck. She pushed it and it wasn’t long before the authorities were there to help get her to the hospital.

Our local hospital determined that her hip had been badly broken, and it would be best to transfer her to Rochester, home of the Mayo Clinic, just a short 30-miles away.

It was so nice to know that she was receiving the best care the medical world could offer. She underwent surgery to repair her shattered hip. She came through with flying colors and we all breathed a sigh of relief and began to focus on what we thought would come next – a rehabilitation center to get her back on her feet again and a return to her home.

It became a rocky road however. Betty’s ongoing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), as well as congestive heart failure (CHF), was wrecking havoc with her hip rehabilitation. She would be well enough to move to the rehab center, only after a few days to suffer intense breathing issues and end up back in the hospital. This cycle went on for an entire month.

Finally, as her family, we had to accept that, despite the fact that her hip was healing nicely, her breathing issues were not. In fact, they were chronic, and they would not improve, we were told. In fact, they would only get worse.

Betty was completely exhausted and we could all see that she couldn’t fight much longer.

Our thought pattern completely changed, and we knew that the best thing for Betty was a move to hospice to be pain free and comfortable. At that point, all we wanted was rest and peace for Betty, the matriarch of our family — a woman who was widowed at the young age of 50 after the sudden, unexpected death of my father-in-law Richard in 1979 from a heart attack.

I wasn’t that close to my mother-in-law, even though I had been a part of her family for over 30 years. Yet, that day, something compelled me to focus solely on her and I found myself continually standing at her right shoulder, patting her head, bringing cool cloths to keep her comfortable, and feeding her an occasional bite of ice cream.

The atmosphere at the hospice house was home-like and welcoming. The nurses and staff were there not only for Betty’s needs, but for ours as well. Even though we would only be with them for a short 12 hours, they very quickly felt like family.

I remember toying with the thought that, at some point, I would whisper in Betty’s ear to please give Liz a hug for me when she saw her.

With Betty resting comfortably and at the urging of the nurses, everyone except one daughter went home for the night. You need your sleep the nurses told us, and we agreed — but not until we decided that one of us would stay with Betty at all times.

Just a few short hours after returning home, our phone rang with the news that Betty was gone, she had slipped away during the early morning hours with her daughter asleep by her side.

After taking a few deep breaths and letting the news sink in, I realized that I no longer had the opportunity to ask Betty to hug Liz. As soon as I had that thought, however, I was immediately immersed with an intense sense of love and peace and the knowing that my mother-in-law was now with my daughter and she was indeed giving her that hug that I had only thought about.

A few seconds later that thought was gone. But, it was immediately replaced with a complete and utter sense of gratitude that I knew was my mother-in-law’s way of thanking me for helping her in her final hours..

My brother-in-law related a few days later, that although he had been on vacation in Georgia when he got the news, his intense sadness was quickly replaced by an extreme sense of peace – a peace given to him by his mother that there was no need to be sad. She was in a better place, she was no longer suffering, and she was reuniting with those she loved.

It’s been a few weeks now and these experiences have had the chance to sink in. My answer about becoming a hospice volunteer has clearly been answered, and I have begun the process to make that happen. Some day soon, I hope to provide the same peace and love that we received to other families who will move their loved one to hospice just as we did.

I consider it a gift — a gift given to me by God and by Betty.

I have been blessed, and now, I can be a blessing to others.

God At Work

31 Mar

A couple of weeks ago we had a speaker at our Compassionate Friends meeting.  Mitch Carmody lost his son Kelly to cancer in 1987 and he’s written a book entitiled, Letters to My Son.  I had read it several years ago and have wanted to meet Mitch for a very long time.  I contacted him last Fall and we set in motion his coming to town to speak to our group on March 14th.   Our local paper did a really nice front-page interview with Mitch that ran the day before our meeting.

We had a great turn out and the article brought out many more than our CF membership.  We had one couple attend who had not lost a child, but were about to.  The Harlicker’s have a 7 year old son, Tyler, in the final stages of a cancer battle.  When they read the article in the paper about Mitch, and the fact that he also lost a son from cancer, about the same age as Tyler, they felt compelled to attend as they said they felt it was a sign from God.
 
Everyone in town knows about Tyler and his cancer battle.  We have been praying for him for over a year in church every week.  Roger and I met Tim & Sue for the first time that night and they are amazing — very strong and we both were very touched at the openness with which they have dealt with this painful journey in ther family.  They have also talked very openly with Tyler and his brothers and sisters about his impending journey to heaven.
 
When Mitch Carmody’s son Kelly was in the midst of his cancer battle, he clutched a rosary and it brought tremendous comfort to him and his family.  Several years after Kelly passed Mitch came upon the rosary and began to lend it out to other people who were also fighting cancer or some other life crisis.  Some  were healed and sometimes the rosary became a very comforting symbol that helped them through the journey.
 
The rosary had been out on loan for the past three years.  However the week after Mitch spoke and met the Harlicker’s, the rosary was returned to him.  And, he immediately knew that it needed to go to Tyler.  The next day the Harlicker’s took a road trip with Tyler to meet Mich and his wife Barb and accept the rosary.  Tyler was able to see pictures of Kelly – who he knew would be his new friend in heaven.
 
Tyler completed his journey this past Tuesday and the rosary served the purpose for which it was intended.  Here is the heartbreaking but amazing account written by Tyler’s Dad, of Tyler’s transition from this world to the next.
 
http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/tylerharlicker/journal

The Acknowledgement Section

6 Dec

I had a dream that I went to Heaven and an angel was showing me around. We walked side-by-side inside a large workroom filled with angels. My angel guide stopped in front of the first section and said, “This is the Receiving Section. Here, all petitions to God said in prayer are received.”

I looked around in this area, and it was terribly busy with so many angels sorting out petitions written on voluminous paper sheets and scraps from people all over the world.

Then we moved on down a long corridor until we reached the second section.

The angel then said to me, “This is the Packaging and Delivery Section.. Here, the graces and blessings the people asked for are processed and delivered to the living persons who asked for them. “I noticed again how busy it was there. There were many angels working hard at that station, since so many blessings had been requested and were being packaged for delivery to Earth.

Finally at the farthest end of the long corridor we stopped at the door of a very small station. To my great surprise, only one angel was seated there, idly doing nothing.

“This is the Acknowledgment Section,” my angel friend quietly admitted to me. He seemed embarrassed “How is it that there is no work going on here?” I asked.
“So sad,” the angel sighed. “After people receive the blessings that they asked for, very few send back acknowledgments .”

“How does one acknowledge God’s blessings?” I asked.

“Simple,” the angel answered. Just say, “Thank you, Lord.” (Or Great Spirit, Higher Power, they work too.)
“What blessings should they acknowledge?” I asked.

“If you have food in the refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof overhead and a place to sleep you are richer than 75% of this world. If you have money in the bank, in your wallet, and spare change in a dish, you are among the top 8% of the world’s wealthy .”

“And if you get this on your own computer, you are part of the 1% in the world who has that opportunity.”

“If you woke up this morning with more health than illness … you are more blessed than the many who will not even survive this day .”

“If you have never experienced the fear in battle, the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture, or the pangs of starvation … you are ahead of 700 million people in the world.”

“If you can attend a church without the fear of harassment, arrest, torture or death you are envied by, and more blessed than, three billion people in the world .” (Add “synagogue” and “mosque” to “church” and this number jumps, I’m sure.)

“If your parents are still alive …you are very rare .”

“If you can hold your head up and smile, you are not the norm, you’re unique to all those in doubt and despair.”

Ok, what now? How can I start?

If you can read this message, you are more blessed than over two billion people in the world who cannot read at all.

ATTN: ACKNOWLEDGEMENT DEPARTMENT:

Thank you Lord, for giving me the ability to share this message and for giving me so many wonderful people to share it with.

Kim

Bright Spots in the Midst of Pain

16 Aug

Liz & her Wencl cousins

Sometimes you go about the business of daily life and you put yourself out there and you never really know if your words or the sharing of your experiences are helpful to anyone other than yourself.  Sometimes you even begin to question whether or not you should continue to do so.

But then, something happens and you know that there is no doubt … you are making a difference.

That happened to me yesterday. 

This identical post was published on the OWNING PINK website(http://www.owningpink.com ) on Friday.  I really had no intention of re-posting it here.  But, after receiving a remarkable piece of feedback that literatlly took my breath away, I changed my mind.

        Every now and then I will share some of my life experiences when a bright spot has emerged and helped me through a very difficult time — because no matter what our situation may be, there is always a sliver of gratitude that can be found. I will admit that sometimes we have to dig really deep to find it, but it will always be there when we need it most.  And, sometimes, if we don’t find it, it finds us.

Unbelieveable Circumstances

I was numb as I sat in the chair between my husband and my father. I could hear the funeral director talking…I could see his lips moving, but nothing was registering in my mind. Even breathing was difficult. In the past twenty-four hours, life as we knew it had ceased to exist.  Our oldest daughter, twenty-year-old Elizabeth, had died of smoke inhalation from a fire in her duplex just a few blocks from the University of Minnesota, where she had just begun her sophomore year. Two of her roommates also died with her.

How can this be? Liz is gone? It just can’t be true. How can I go on without my precious first-born daughter? I had so many emotions running through my mind and I couldn’t deal with any of them. I was too shocked even to cry.

Question after question had to be answered. What is her birth date? Where was she born? What year did she graduate from high school? I answered each question without any thought, more like a robot than a mother. It was instinctual – it was rote – it felt void of emotion.

Part of me — no, all of me, wanted to scream and run out of the room, go home and find my beautiful, precious Elizabeth, safe in her room. She would look at me with that coy smile of hers and say, “Oh Mom, you just worry way too much! Nothing is going to happen to me! I’m just fine!”

Why couldn’t this be a horrible nightmare, or some cruel joke? Please God, please. No, this was real, and I had to sit and question-by-question try to acknowledge what I just couldn’t believe was my new reality.

Intense Sorrow and Pain

When the funeral director left the room for a few minutes, the silence was overwhelming. We each sat like statues, staring into space blankly. Conversation was impossible. The silence in the room was deafening. Each of us was trying so hard to keep it together, but it was an impossible task. My husband put his head in his hands and sobbed. Then he got up and said, “I’ve got to get some air.” We barely acknowledged him, as my Dad and I continued to sit in stunned silence with tears streaming down our faces.

The funeral director returned and gently told us that we would need to bring in clothing for Liz to be buried in. There was no hurry he said, but in the next day or two. As his words began to slowly sink in, I mentally scanned Liz’s closet – and it was empty. There was nothing left – she had taken everything with her when she moved into that duplex just three weeks ago.

An Unexpected Shopping Trip

The harsh reality was that I would have to go out and buy Liz an outfit to be buried in – one last, final new outfit. She always loved to shop and she loved new clothes, so it seemed fitting that a new outfit was needed for this occasion as well. But how could I shop without her? We never agreed on clothing, and now in this difficult, painful state of mind I had to pick out her final new outfit?!

My sister drove me to the mall – I knew I would go to a store where Liz used to work, as she had always liked the clothes there. As I pulled open the door and stepped inside I whispered, “Liz, you have got to help me here! I have absolutely no idea what to pick.”

I slowly walked around and began to peruse the racks. It didn’t take very long before I found a pair of khaki pants and a light blue sweater. I showed my sister and said, “I don’t know if this is what Liz would want, but even if I don’t get this right, does it really matter?”

A day after the funeral my sister-in-law came to visit. We sat in my kitchen drinking coffee and talking. The grim reality that Elizabeth was gone had begun to sink in.

A Precious Surprise

“I was going through pictures last night,” Karen told me, “and I found one of Liz taken last Christmas. I thought you might want to see it.” She reached into her purse and pulled out a picture, and laid it on the table in front of me.

There she was – my Elizabeth, smiling and happy sitting with her cousins. But… suddenly my breath caught in my throat and I couldn’t speak — Liz was wearing …  a pair of khaki pants and a light blue sweater!

your beautiful daughter

By Scott Sheperd  on Sunday, 08/15/2010 at 1:52 PM

Harsh reality, stunned, finality, sinking in, overwhelming and many more words that transcend discussion. I have worked for years with people who have lost loved ones, many times suddenly and unexpectedly. My oldest daughter lost a baby six months into her pregnancy totally unexpectedly. I sat here and read this and had all those words and feelings hit me as if your daughter was my daughter. I felt I in some way knew her. In these situations I always picture the survivors as almost like trapped animals. Nowhere to go. Nowhere to turn. Everywhere you look the truth is crushing. To not panic and go crazy just in and of itself is a major feat. You have shared and taught and inspired with this article. Most of all, I think, you have let us be moved by the beauty of your daughter. Your strength and that of your family is incredible but rising above all that is this beauty of your daughter. Her presence and spirit are tied into those khaki pants and blue sweater. Her smile in that picture shows a life raised in love and a life that loved and still gives that love. Words fail me Kim. I’m glad I got to know you and your family a little bit and most of all I feel honored to have met your daughter. Thank you for sharing her. In my own way I will pass her on to a lot of people.