Why You Can Say “Happy Mother’s Day” to This Grieving Mom

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“As Judy and I placed roses on our children’s graves, we both stared at the obvious conflict that it should not be us placing flowers on our children’s graves but them putting them on ours.”

This meditation is not meant to apply to every grieving mother. Not all my grieving friends would personally agree with me on this and I wouldn’t expect them to as we all grieve differently and are at different stages of grieving. However, while some people outside of the grieving family may expect the mourners to be happier after time has passed, I sense that some people expect me to be sadder. Mother’s and Father’s Day are probably the most difficult days of the year for grieving parents. I’m not saying this is easy for me but I am happy this Mother’s Day. Before I tell you the why’s, let me take you on my journey over the last two weeks.

I had a mountain top experience over the last two weeks while sharing my hope with others in a public way. Being able to share my view of Eternity with others and encourage them gives purpose to my pain and, more importantly, it gives me great joy seeing others blessed by my confidence in my Lord who created the universe. I was soaring in God’s goodness over the last two weeks as I saw the power of God change lives.

Then suddenly this past Monday, I got terribly sad and couldn’t really understand why. I read the book I’ll Love You Forever to Josie, which didn’t help! I was saying goodbye to some students which was hard, but this was different. We were also giving out Taylor’s scholarship to an amazing young man on Friday, but I was excited for that tribute. Even though I was planning a Mother’s Day gathering for our family, it didn’t hit me until Tuesday night that I was missing my son for Mother’s Day. It was a surreal unconscious grief and reminder that I’m still terribly human.

I realized the Holy Spirit was groaning and grieving for me even though I was not conscience of it. When this hits, it usually means I need to look at pictures from the past or go the cemetery and grieve, then imagine the rapture and Taylor dancing out of his grave with the others buried there. So, I called my friend Judy, who also lost a daughter to drowning the same summer as Taylor, and we went to our kids’ cemeteries and grieved along with another lady whose husband died and was buried by Taylor four years ago. As Judy and I placed roses on our children’s graves, we both marveled at the obvious conflict that it should not be us placing flowers on our children’s graves for Mother’s Day, but them putting them on ours. Beautiful time was spent sharing each others’ grief and hope. After I cried and came home, my heart was lighter and I was ready then to give out the scholarship on Friday and say goodbye to my students with minimal tears.

Last night, I received an email from my pastor about Mother’s Day. He wanted the opinions of some of us in difficult Mother’s Day situations on a beautiful blog from someone who was discussing how to honor mothers in church this Sunday but still honor those who struggle with this day. (I will post this blog after he preaches on Sunday so my church friends will hear it fresh 🙂 ).

This got me starting to think, “Why do I want people to say, ‘Happy Mothers’ Day’ to me?”

My first thought was from 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NIV) – 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

This verse was grounded in my heart for two years prior to Taylor’s death. I learned to be thankful that I had a paralyzed vocal cord, thankful that I could at least talk and was learning to be a better listener and  thankful for many more difficult situations. I had begun to learn what it meant to pray continually which led to thankfulness as God showed me his hand in every situation.

The last two days, I have been thinking of all the reasons it is okay to tell me “Happy Mothers’ Day”, even though I miss my Taylor immensely. It all comes back to gratitude…I’m thankful…

  • I am in love with the most amazing man who gave me four children.
  • I am blessed to be Taylor’s mother now and for always.
  • I had 23 and10/12ths years with Taylor with memories that I will always treasure.
  • I am mother for the 28th year to three other truly amazing earth-bound children, Shawn, Drew and Bethany, who continually bring me joy every day and deserve my joy in their lives.
  • I am mother-in-love to two powerfully kind and loving women, Angela and Michelle, who understand me in so many deep ways and love me so well.
  • I am surrogate mother to many other “kids” and students who overwhelm me with their unconditional love.
  • I am grandmother “Mimi” to little Josie who is pure joy at this house and when I read that book, I’ll Love You Forever, to her and scooped her up after reading and sang to her, “I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, As long as I’m living, My baby you’ll be,” she looked up at me with pure joy and smiled a smile that filled me with all the happiness in the world!
  • The Biggest Reason I’m Happy: My deepest prayer was answered for Taylor with his Heaven going and I will see him again and spend eternity with him when this moment of loss will seem like a speck of dust in the grand picture that Jesus is painting for us.

So, when you see me, don’t be afraid I might cry if you say it, just know that I may shed a tear or two but will greatly appreciate your blessing and I truly am very happy and grateful on this Mother’s Day.

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One Thousand Gifts – by Ann Voskamp: My Healing Through Gratitude

I have had losses in my life like anyone my age. Some of this was from pain of losing a loved one, a child going through pain, but the most life altering was from having three surgeries in a year with one that brought damage to my voice.

My passion in life is singing and leading worship. I’m a singer and a teacher, plus I love to talk, A LOT! After my third spinal surgery, I woke to find my right vocal cord nerve was paralyzed bringing my voice to a whisper at best. This completely put my life to a stop of reflection asking God what my new purpose was to be in His journey for me. As a person with deep faith, this was still a challenge as I processed, questioning, waiting…

In June 2012, I had surgery to allow me to talk, but I still could not sing well. In August, God was gracious and allowed me to help with church worship and, in October, go back to teaching and leading worship at my school part time.  Yet, I still grieved that I could not sing the way I wanted to. Although I understood that worship is a way of life and not a song, musical worship had for so long come from my heart through my larynx that I wasn’t sure how to deeply worship anymore.

In November, preparing for Thanksgiving, God challenged me to be thankful in everything. I thought I had been living a grateful life, but was still drifting towards complaining and discontentment in many areas, especially in my verbal life.

As the temptation to grumble approached, the Lord would reveal the parts of my problems to be thankful for:

Wandering Loved Ones: “Thank you, Lord, that they are alive. Thank you that they love me and want your blessing in their lives. Thank you for other loved ones close by and students that are seeking your face. Thank you for the husband who seeks your face and loves our family…”

A Broken Voice: “Thank you, Lord for the opportunities to touch lives for you in the health world because of this and help others in the same situation I’m in. Thank you that I can at least teach part time and help others to sing at school and at church. Lord, what? You don’t need perfection? Okay, I will sing, even if my cord doesn’t make the kind of sound I think it should make. I can still lift up my joyful noise to you for true worship comes from my heart and not my larynx. “

Positive growth, yet, I kept expecting, believing, waiting for a complete spectacular healing.

December 1st: Friends commented, “You are sounding better.”  I could tell there was a difference too.

December 21st: A visit to the voice surgeon, absolutely expecting him to say I was completely healed. He scopes my throat then matter-of-factly states, “No, Carla, your cord is still completely paralyzed. I’ll see you in March, you probably won’t have a voice then, and we will discuss a permanent surgery.”

More surgery??? “No, Lord! I will not have another surgery. I’m going to trust you with this one. I would rather not talk than have a 5th surgery.”

January: A precious loved one makes an attempt to reconnect. Gratitude begins to show its fruit. People stopping, saying, “Carla, your voice is back! You can sing! Wow! You sang great in chapel today! You are healed! When did that happen?”…

My Eyore response: “Thank you, but I’m not healed. In fact, in March I won’t have a voice at all again…” (I read this now and think how stupid I was!)

February 1st: I was sharing my heart with our school nurse regarding all this and she jumped up and said, “You have to read this book, One Thousand Gifts!” The next week she bought the book by Ann Voskamp as a gift for me.

Ann Voskamp is what I describe as an honest and down to real life author with an incredible gift for writing in a lyrical way that is beautiful and rare. This is a book you will want to sit with for a half hour, then meditate and savor in small bites twice a day.  Ann describes losses in her life – minor to major – and how gratitude opened up a whole new world as she saw God’s face in the midst of all stages of life.

What God starts, He always finishes. From November to now, through His Holy Spirit and this book, He plopped me in Gratitude Boot Camp! I had been doing the thanksgiving dance but failed to see the work He was doing, believing what the doctor said instead of seeing my Creator’s unique craftsmanship.

As I jumped deeper into gratitude, I had a bottomless sense of peace and began to think less about my voice and more about God’s purpose for my gifts, letting Him take care of my voice.

During this time, another doctor friend asked if he could refer me to a surgeon in Los Angeles who repairs voices of famous singers. The California doctor called me and said I sounded way too good for him to do surgery on me. He and my doctor friend explained that, although my nerve was still paralyzed, my vocal cord had fallen back to the middle of my larynx and was in the perfect position for vibration. With a singing specialist, they said I could very likely build endurance and range again.

I suddenly realized that God was using my voice in a wonderfully functioning capacity without a nerve to help it! I like the spectacular and had been looking for a lightning bolt to come down and strike me with healing power creating fireworks around me. Instead, he healed me with a gentle surprise patiently waiting for me to stop denying His work and realize that my gratitude broke open the doors to see the healing He had already accomplished in me.

It is now March 7th and, other than range and stamina, my voice feels almost normal again. I’ve cancelled the doctor appointment!

I truly believe that ungratefulness clouds the truth and blessings God wants to reveal to us. I’m so grateful for the difficult times and wouldn’t trade one treasure of wisdom I’ve received from the past two years for anything.

Read One Thousand Gifts and see what miracles God is already doing in your life.