Generations: Love Lasts

Today is my mama’s birthday.  

We won’t be celebrating with cake and ice cream, party streamers and funny hats.  But we will be celebrating that she is here with us for another turn of the calendar page.

Because 25 days ago she was taken by lifeflight to the hospital and we weren’t sure she would be.

I’ve been down here with my parents more than at my own home these past weeks.

I woke this morning in the house my great-grandmother lived in, my grandmother lived in and in which my parents now live.  I am the fourth generation to pad toward the kitchen in the dark, make the coffee and make my way toward the screened in front porch to talk to Jesus and watch the sunrise.

I’ve been thinking about not only the lives lived here, but the passing of time and those that have run ahead to heaven.

My great-grandfather was laid out in the living room.  As a curious three-year-old my daddy told me Papa Cox was “sleeping” when I asked, “why?”.

My great-grandmother buried two children -those tiny bodies are laid to rest in the churchyard next to the rest of my kin gone before.

My grandmother suffered a massive stroke standing at the kitchen counter making breakfast and never woke again.

I have buried a son and started a new plot in the churchyard near my own home in Alabama-the DeSimones will wait together for that glorious Day.

desimones uab family

Time doesn’t stop.  The world will turn and the sun will rise.  The years will pass and so, too, the generations.

It does no good to rail against the clock or the seasons.  

This is trite, but true:  Do not take the people you love for granted.  Do not assume that there will be a “next time” for saying the things that need to be said, for giving a hug, for speaking blessing.

Say it.

Do it.

Not because you are afraid of death, but because while you live, you choose LIFE, you choose LOVE.

So today I won’t worry that I haven’t had a chance to get Mama a present or that she doesn’t feel like eating cake.

I will focus instead on the fact that she is HERE-that I am HERE-and that we are together.

I will be thankful that I have had many opportunities these last weeks to make sure no words are left unsaid.  

I will rest assured that she knows she is loved.

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Bereaved Parents Month Post: How Do You Breathe?

It was the question I asked the bereaved mother that came to my son’s funeral.

It was the question a mother asked me as we stood by her granddaughter’s casket, surrounded by family and flowers.

And it is the right question.

Because when the breath leaves the body of your child, and you look down at the shell that used to be the home of a vibrant, living soul, you simply can. not. breathe.

Read the rest here: How Do You Breathe?

No Harm?

It’s so easy to take Bible verses out of context.  Our modern rendering of the Word of God broken into chapter and verse lends itself to lifting a sentence or two and ignoring the surrounding words.

Sometimes it doesn’t seem to matter much-the verse CAN stand on its own.

But sometimes it is devastating.  Especially to those who find themselves in a situation that seems to clearly contradict the promise.

Jeremiah 29:11 is a popular verse plastered on posters, coffee cups, graduation cards and lovely Christian wall hangings.

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It’s a hard one for me to swallow the way it’s usually dished out.

Death feels pretty much like harm to me.

I can spiritualize the verse and say, “Well, God’s ultimate plan is to give me and Dominic a hope and a future”.  

That is absolutely true.  

But that’s not what Jeremiah was talking about.  He was speaking to a specific people at a specific point in time.

The original context of the Scripture was just for Israel-a promise that the nation would not be utterly destroyed or left bereft in exile. A promise that God would fulfill His covenant with Abraham and keep for Himself a people to declare His faithful love to the nations.

I think we moderns take it out of context when we apply it to individual lives.

Many Jews died in exile and not all who could return, chose to return when Cyrus issued the order.

The Scripture that speaks to my heart in this Valley of the Shadow of Death is this:

And I am convinced and sure of this very thing, that He Who began a good work in you will continue until the day of Jesus Christ [right up to the time of His return], developing [that good work] and perfecting and bringing it to full completion in you.

Philippians 1:6 AMP

Here is my HOPE.  Here is MY promise of ultimate redemption and restoration.

God is still working to bring about His purpose in and through Dominic and in and through me “until the day of Jesus Christ”.

I don’t know how it works but He’s doing it.

He Who is Faithful and True has promised.

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Repost: Resurrection: Reality and Reassurance

“The worst conceivable thing has happened, and it has been mended…All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.” ~Julian of Norwich

I’m not sure when I first read this quote, but it came to my mind that awful morning.   And I played it over and over in my head, reassuring my broken heart that indeed, the worst had already happened, and been mended.

Read the rest here:  Resurrection: Reality and Reassurance

Longer Than Three Days: Waiting for Resurrection

It is tempting to forget that there were three long days and nights between the crucifixion and the resurrection beause the way we observe this season rushes us past the pain to embrace the promise.

But it’s not hard for me to imagine how the disciples felt when they saw Jesus was dead.  It was neither what they expected nor what they prayed for.

Read the rest here:  Living Between the Crucifixion and the Resurrection

Repost: Remember: Why Good Friday Matters as Much as Resurrection Sunday

“On the one hand Death is the triumph of Satan, the punishment of the Fall, and the last enemy. Christ shed tears at the grave of Lazarus and sweated blood in Gethsemane: the Life of Lives that was in Him detested this penal obscenity not less than we do, but more.
On the other hand, only he who loses his life will save it. We are baptized into the death of Christ, and it is the remedy for the Fall. Death is, in fact, what some modern people call “ambivalent.” It is Satan’s great weapon and also God’s great weapon: it is holy and unholy; our supreme disgrace and our only hope; the thing Christ came to conquer and the means by which He conquered.”  C.S. Lewis,  Miracles

Bury a child and suddenly the death of Christ becomes oh, so personal. The image of Mary at the foot of the cross is too hard to bear.

Read the rest here:  Remember: Why Good Friday Matters as Much as Resurrection Sunday

Fragments

I recently heard  a young woman describe a Chinese grieving ritual on an NPR broadcast:

At her grandfather’s funeral, his oldest son was tasked with demonstrating the depth of grief and pain the father’s passing left behind. He stood before the casket, raised a clay bowl above his head and smashed it to the ground while loudly wailing.

The bowl was shattered into fragments too small and too fragile to be put back together in any semblance of what they once represented.

broken bowl

When I heard the story, my heart cried, “YES!!”

Why can’t we do something like that?  Why can’t we have a dramatic outburst at the edge of death that burns an unforgettable image in the hearts and minds of those who join us to say good-bye?

I honestly wouldn’t change a thing about Dominic’s Homegoing Service –except for it to be unnecessary.

We had a beautiful video full of photographs provided by friends and family.  There were praise songs chosen to remind us of the brevity of life and the eternal hope we have in Jesus.

He was placed under a giant Tree of Life that had been constructed in the sanctuary as part of the Palm Sunday/Easter celebrations of that week. Even as we planned the service I remember thinking, “Only a DeSimone could leave earth when some wild thing like this was available to mark his passing!”  

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And our Pastor/Shepherd/Friend who had spent many quality hours with our children gave the message.  The sanctuary was filled with people from all walks of life, all faith traditions and all ages-many hearing the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus for the first time.

It was as good as it could have been.

But if I could go back-I’d add this element:

I would raise a clay bowl over my head as high as I could and I would smash it with a loud wail.

Because in the end, that’s what child loss does to a mama’s heart.  It shatters it into pieces so tiny and so fragile that simply to gather them into a pile takes oh, so much time.

And the pieces never fit again.  They never make a whole.  There are always gaps and the vessel remains fragile and easily broken.

I am still gathering pieces.  

Still looking for the ones that slid under this edge out of sight or got kicked farther away than I thought they could be.

I’m placing the ones I recognize back into what seems the proper setting.

I’m finding some that look like they don’t belong anywhere and will have to wait to see if I ever figure out where they should go.

I’m beginning to look more and more like I’m whole.  

And in some ways, I am.  But in many ways it is an illusion-a trick of the eye-a turning of the ugly broken toward the wall where you can’t see it.

I’m still missing so, so much.

dickens quote rainbow