Sharing this post from last year as I think it touched many and is worthy to share again.
A Christmas Tree of Life
As I read posts here about loss, especially recent loss and about sadness around the holidays, it makes me think of that first Christmas without Kenz. I recall words from a well meaning friend “you will just have to find your new normal”. At the time, the words stung! I did not want a new normal. I had made up my mind that I was not going to have a Christmas tree. After all, Makenzie was such an intricate part of the tradition of putting the tree up. I am, for the most part a procrastinator. I have to feel inspired to do things that matter; but, Kenz always wanted the tree up immediately following Thanksgiving. I could usually delay this with my own reasoning for a couple of weeks but then she would haul off and pull the decorations out of storage and get everything going.. With Christmas music blaring, she would get the tree situated with lights wrapped on it and a few precious handmade ornaments from kindergarten placed strategically front and center (she knew that I would move these sweet little gems to the back to accommodate my own need for synchronicity and perfection). And then she would ditch me! Opened boxes spread all over the living room floor she would find something else to suit her fancy and leave me to finish the job.
Anyway that first Christmas season I was shopping and as I waited in line, a box of purple ornaments summoned me. I actually got out of a very long line at a cash register to retrieve this single box of ornaments and then get to the back of the line to purchase them.
So that first December, Nicole and Ashley came and helped me decorate the most meaningful and precious Christmas tree. In some sense, I consider it my Tree of Life that first Christmas. As they did, I also shared with Nicole and Ashley about Kenzie’s gift of life. It was a very long and tearful afternoon as they poured over the pages of the letters of correspondence that I have exchanged with the recipients. I think we used a full box of tissues that day.
Once word got out about my purple Christmas tree, gifts of ornaments came from so many sweet friends. Purple, zebra, and butterfly ornaments. I was mesmerized by the white lights shining on each special decoration and would sit for hours in the evening transfixed in my own thoughts and place of serenity. Perhaps only a tree Kenzie’s mom could love? That first Christmas I kept that tree up until Valentine’s Day when my husband Bob finally coaxed me, begged me to put it away.
We have celebrated these past five Christmas seasons with this pretty but eclectic Christmas tree. As I started to work on this year’s Christmas tree on the day after Thanksgiving (Kenzie inspired) I did not get too far. Only lights strung on the tree; still pondering what am I waiting for? It just came to me this morning. I will bring out all the old favorites from years gone by and use them this year. Yes, I will take my most precious and cherished handmade ornaments crafted by tiny hands and strategically place them front and center
Each person’s process of experiencing those first holidays without their loved one is unique. A new normal is unimaginable and even seemingly insurmountable for most of us. Be gentle and patient and kind to yourself and allow the gift; the greatest gift of all “Jesus” to embrace you, love on you, and allow your heart to find peace and comfort. Maybe even joy will be discovered in something as unassuming as a box of purple ornaments or the tracing of a small hand.
Joy in His Plan B
The slightest ping of angst crept into my heart this week. Where is my joy? I suppose it is stemming from underlying thoughts of the approaching holidays. Each year it just happens; I cannot explain it but only in terms that the holidays for me have always been about family. My family has shrunk to next to nothing. As our adult children get older, their responsibilities and priorities change as they have lives of their own and then there is the punctuated absence of Makenzie which only magnifies this feeling. Makenzie was the glue that held us together. She adored Thanksgiving and always said it was her favorite holiday. Her favorite food was my sister’s scalloped corn and always insisted each holiday that she doubled the recipe.
So lately I have had this unsettling feeling that God is ready to execute plan B in my life by taking things up a notch. I have been including in my prayers requests for discernment about certain areas of my life. The book is written, however I have been struggling with the marketing piece of it. As I am acutely aware of the need to be aggressive in pitching to promote the book, I find myself losing the joy of sharing my daughter’s story. I simply cannot lose the joy! So what’s next? Included in my conversations with God, I have also asked that He close the doors that are no longer a viable use of my time and talent to make room for His Plan B. But just this week, I had this realization that an important door is about to close and this is causing me a bit of sadness. It is hard to let go.
During the late summer of 2010 following her death, I got involved in fundraising for the Scholarship Fund that was established in Makenzie’s memory. It was such a great distraction for me and provided something positive to focus on for the ultimate purpose of keeping our daughter’s name and memory alive! Although the fundraising for the most part has ceased due to reaching our monetary goal and accomplishing a perpetual scholarship fund, there is an annual event that still occurs. The Makenzie Goode annual Soccer Tournament brings friends together for the game Makenzie loved as much or more than just about anything else in her life. In recent years the number of teams and players has dwindled, and this year there is a strong hint that there just may not be enough teams to make it happen. Although I knew deep in my heart that this was inevitable, the closing of this particular door is really heartbreaking. I will need to trust God on this.
As I journey through losing Makenzie, I feel that God has called me to share my faith and He seems to be using my volunteer work with New England Organ Bank/Donate Life as a platform to share her story and the miracle of Organ Donation. So this weekend I am involved in National Donate Life Sabbath by simply setting up a Donate Life registration table during a blood drive that is occurring at my church. National Donate Life Sabbath occurs around the second weekend in November annually, just prior to Thanksgiving. It is a great time to reflect on those who gave the precious gift of life. It is also a time to bring awareness to the importance of organ and tissue donation. It is so important to me as Kenzie’s mom to share about her life as well as her gifts of life. Five years ago I actually served in a different capacity for Donate Life Sabbath by sharing our story for the very first time in front of our church congregation of better than four hundred. I was so nervous. Makenzie’s friends, her “besties”, her brother Sean and other family and friends came to support me as I shared our story. Who would have known that this would lead to much more sharing, a published book, and now book talks, and public speaking? Our God is an awesome God! On that day five years ago, a very important person and his wife came to support me. Al, the recipient of Makenzie’s pancreas drove a very long distance that Sunday morning to support me. He willingly stood up when I shared that he was in the sanctuary and many of Kenzie’s friends went to meet him and hug him. It was so touching. My husband Bob joined me on the podium at my insistance and held my hand. He got pretty tearful as I shared our story, but I know how very proud he is of me and especially Kenz.
As I opened my email devotional this morning there was a really important verse that I will share here. Funny how these things seem to tie together. Godwinks at their finest.
“And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ — to the glory and praise of God” (Philippians 1:9-11 NIV).
I am thankful for my daughter ‘s life and for her gifts, and for her amazing friends who have enthusiastically supported the Memorial Soccer Tournament. I will gracefully accept the doors in my life that close and with joy and anticipation await wisdom and discernment with regard to His Plan B in my life.
Sent from my iPad
Lately I have been attending a creative writers’ workshop and am enjoying it immensely. It’s not the writing that pulls at my heartstrings, although it is great to actually carve out time each week allocated for just writing, but what I am enjoying most is the new friendships that I am making as we share through our writing, our lives. What I admire is the honesty that comes out in the writing as we write and share among those who have not been a part of our private lives. I am somewhat surprised at the similarities of the experiences that we share; trials and conquests and this reminds me that we are all created the same, in His image.
Our initial writing exercise with the group was to take ten minutes and write about the first thing that came to mind. As I stared at the blank page I noticed the heading on the stationary “Hospice of Franklin County”. So I wrote about my experience with hospice in the final days of our dad’s life. The final time that I spent with my dad was on New Year’s eve of 2009. It was certainly not a typical New Year’s eve celebration as you can imagine. Our dad was in and out of lucidity as my sister and I sat with him throughout the evening. It was hard to watch his confusion as he seemed to have one foot in this world and the other with trepidation slipping into the next. The hospice volunteer arrived the next morning which was New Year’s Day and sat with our dad as we left together to grab a late breakfast. When we returned, I noticed that a small bird had crashed into the glass door at the entrance and died on the ground where it fell. This seemed like a premonition to me as I wondered if our dad had slipped away in our absence. He had not. The hospice worker encouraged my sister and I to go to our homes and take a nap for much needed rest as our father’s impending death had stretched over most of that preceeding week. We were both emotionally spent. I remember telling my dad goodbye before I left and encouraging him to go find mom and take that walk with her on Wells Beach; a sacred place for them where they had taken many beautiful walks.
It was not more than twenty minutes after I arrived home and layed down on my bed with my dog Grace at my side. I remember being extremely upset. Suddenly Grace started barking and moved to the end of the bed. It was as if there were something or someone standing there as she assertively barked in protective mode over me. I even asked her what was it that she saw? This went on for several minutes and then she just stopped and got quiet. Following that the phone rang and it was the nursing home calling to tell me that my dad had passed shortly after I had left. I have always wondered about that encounter with Grace barking so agressively. I have often wondered if my dad had stopped by to check on me before he left for the next world.
So I shared my piece with the writer’s group. I also shared my additional thought about hospice. I am grateful for these selfless individuals that choose to work as hospice workers and I consider them angels in disguise. They bless the infirmed, the terminally ill, with respect and dignity to die peacefully.
This past week the leader of our writers’ group was unable to attend and a “stand-in” facilitator was asked to lead the group. I was seated right next to her. As we visited she got up and hugged me and explained that she thought that I looked familiar and then remarked that her grand daughter knew Makenzie. This new acquaintance also revealed that she had wanted to call me after she had learned that I wrote a book about Makenzie, and she congratulated me. She revealed that she too lost her daughter, however very recently. After the workshop ended and everyone else left, I remained seated there next to this new acquaintance and we talked. I asked her if she was receiving Godwinks and at first she said no. But then she started to think about it and asked if I was talking about the clouds. She mentioned beautiful cloud formations that she had witnessed that caused her to think about her daughter. She explained that she actually witnessed clouds take the form of the word “Mom” and that they lingered for quite sometime. She also told of a time when there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and all of a sudden a rainbow appeared right before her and then after a while a cloud formed below the rainbow in an image that looked like an Irish step dancer. This made her smile as she explained that her daughter loved “Lord of the Dance” with Irish step dancing. This mom told me that she actually captured a picture of that Irish Step Dancer cloud image and that her sister who was a long ways away also witnessed the same! I smiled as I told her that I believed those were Godwinks intended for her. God’s affirmations that He was with her and her daughter was fine.
Summing up this week’s blog: Lesson or Blessing? I guess a little bit of both. My lesson was my reminder that there is so much unseen in our existence here. I do believe that our loved ones are very close to us, maybe even watching us, perhaps even cheering us on as we find our way with God’s amazing provision for us in our time of grief. My blessing this week was that it was nice to be able to sit and encourage my new friend at the writer’s workshop. I believe that people are placed in our path for a reason. Perhaps she will be more apt to look for the Godwinks now, and maybe even yearn for a deeper knowledge and relationship with our Father in Heaven who continues to bless us.
” May the blessings of each day, be the blessings you need most”.
Taking walks in the woods brings such joy. I love it almost as much as a walk on the seashore and find it a great time to just be alone to reflect, be quiet, and to listen. I have friends, city living friends who are uncomfortable if not afraid, to be in the woods. I suppose I can relate, as any journey that requires city walking causes me a similar uneasiness.
The other day I took a walk with my husband. Our beautiful New England foliage was ablaze in color. By living in New England , we are gifted four seasons. With each season, its purpose realized and so it goes in our lives as well. I got to thinking about the seasons of our lives and of how each season plays out sometimes concluding with joy in a grand finale , if only we can recognize it. There are seasons of happiness and joy, seasons of loss and of growth, and seasons of grief just to name a few.
As I relished in the amazing colors of this year’s fall foliage, I decided that I could not recall another fall season with such beauty. I am told that due to and following significant drought, the colors are more brilliant!
What if that is also the case in our own lives? Sometimes it seems like life gives us feast or famine. It gives us obstacles, hardships, and seasons of drought as well. It seems to me that after we live through it, we are many times rewarded with a grand finale in that particular season of our life. I think of the magnitude of Makenzie’s grand finale as she left her mark on this world by saving so many lives. I am even aware.of it in my own life following my season of grief after the death of my dad and then four weeks later, my daughter. God is always faithful but, in His due time for His intended purpose. God displays His amazing vibrant image in each of us in our unique circumstances and creates a beautiful finish in the seasons of our lives. We need to pause, reflect and recognize what a masterpiece God has created in each of us, like the fall foliage.
Last evening I attended a Pilates in Pink event for breast cancer awareness. The proceeds to benefit an organization called The Healing Garden. As I surveyed the room of participants I saw such a variety of supporters. It seems cancer has touched everyone in some capacity. I met a few who were participating even in the midst of their own cancer treatment. I feel confident that God is composing his Grand Finale in them, in this season of their lives as well. I lost my mother to breast cancer so the sting is still very real. But my mom, as she was seated in the first chair of that symphony in her life, never missed a note and allowed it to play out in a beautiful melody through her. What a joy filled purpose driven life she lived.
Pilates in Pink Event
I listened to a sermon this morning and this was offered:
“The attitude we have while we are in the wilderness determines how long we remain there”. Joyce Meyer
I like that. If we can recognize that even in the seasons of drought or uncertainty in our lives, we have the opportunity to willingly and even expectantly live through it with hopeful anticipation. To have a mindset that in His perfect timing He will create a beautiful finish. As we allow it, our attitude can soar to a great altitude as Christ’s image is revealed in us.
But they delight in the law of the lord, meditating on it day and night. They are like trees planted along the riverbank bearing fruit each season. Psalm 1:2-3
As I strive to live with my eyes and heart wide open, I marvel at the Godwinks. Subtle affirmations that Kenzie is with me, as I sense her inspirations through the hands of God. Yesterday I had a couple of “hand picked” Godwinks that amused me and I thought worthy to share here.
Yesterday, I was headed out in the late morning to meet my friend Linda for lunch. Linda and I became friends after I became affiliated with the Community Foundation where Makenzie’s Memorial Scholarship Fund was established. Anyway as I was driving, I passed a fundraising sign where there was a new car being raffled. I drove right by and had this sense that I needed to turn around and go back. If you ever get a strong feeling out of nowhere, pay attention to it, as many times a blessing will be found behind it. So I drove back and decided to buy a couple of tickets in support of a very worthy cause. Although I do not need a new car, I would not turn it down if I happened to be the lucky winner. So I walked up to the reception desk and asked to purchase the tickets. As I was filling out the raffle cards, I mentioned that their cause was near and dear to my heart and I shared a tiny bit about losing Kenzie. When I finished filling out my information, I looked up and saw that the woman had a pensive look on her face as she asked me when I lost my daughter. I told her 2010 and as I did, she crumbled into tears. She explained that she too lost her child in 2010. I extended sympathy to her as I commented that God continues to “hand pick” those that are placed in my path who are experiencing the same trial. Although our journey is different we are connected as the mothers of our children. As I reflected on this, I paused to wonder if the spirits of our children have somehow met. I left with my tickets in hand and got into my car. There it was again, that feeling that I needed to go back and this time the nudge was to give the woman that I had just met a copy of “Wish You a Goode Journey”. I even sensed the words in my heart “this is your ministry”. I heeded the call and went back in and gave her my book.
The day continued as I headed to the old 1700’s built house, a place called Country Mischief, now a restaurant and gift shop, where I was meeting Linda. Our waitress greeted me as I arrived and escorted me into the parlor where I felt the warmth of the welcoming fire in the old time fireplace. The waitress then pointed to a tiny room in an alcove of the parlor “hand picked” and said you get the outhouse today, as she explained that we would actually be dining where a once working three seater outhouse had been. I laughed and commented “well, of course! My Godwink! Another one for today”! The waitress who told me her name was Donna, asked me what a Godwink was and I quickly explained as my friend Linda joined us.
Linda and I enjoying a slice of Country Mischief’s homemade pie
Later on Donna returned to take our orders and she excitedly asked to share her Godwink from the day before. She told us that she had waitressed for many years at a restaurant down the road and had just gotten fired from her job two nights earlier. She said that she had slept fitfully as she worried for her future, and decided to take a morning walk and wound up here at this establishment. Donna said that although she had not planned it, she found herself asking the owner if any waitress help was needed and the owner asked her if she could start immediately as she tossed her an apron. Yes, I would say that was a Godwink! Funny as well as interesting are the stories that I hear when I open up to people and engage them in friendly conversation. And who knows where this may lead as God has His perfect plan “hand picked” for each one of us. I shared my blog info with Donna our waitress with hopes that after she connects here, it will lead her or someone she shares this with to a deeper knowledge of how the God of the universe and our very own heavenly father longs to be involved in our lives in an individual way if only we open our eyes and our hearts to Him and His revelations.
It was a beautiful day even after enjoying my lunch on the bench of a three seater! Kenzie inspired I am sure.
We lifted up the cushion to reveal the three seater … oh my goodness!
Since the departure of our sweet girl, I have been blessed with many new acquaintances and friends. I cannot count the number of people who were there for me in the beginning, when I could not find my way; those “hand picked” by a heavenly father who cared so deeply for me, and still does. Through connections to activities that kept me busy, I discovered my voice again and now strive to be a voice of hope and purpose as I share our journey. Makenzie has certainly made her mark and left me, her mom, with a very big purpose in this our journey.
Thought for your day: “Never ever quit: A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song”. Maya Angelou
Sent from my iPad
Last week as I drove into work a police car pulled out of a side street right behind me. Darn it! I just knew that I was going to be late as I intentionally slowed right down to a crawl as I observed the speed limit and drove five miles under it. As I glanced in my rear view mirror the cop car remained two or even three car lengths behind me and I noticed a train of probably eight cars behind him as I led this caravan. I did not dare speed up. I felt paranoid that if I did anything out of line I could be pulled over. Have you ever felt that way when being followed by a police car? Anyway, I drove like this for probably fifteen miles; myself and the now nine or more cars behind me. When I finally got to the traffic light at the center of town, I pulled into the left lane and the police car remained in the center lane and pulled up next to me. Only then did i realize that what I thought was a cop car following me this early morning commute was actually an older model cop car turned into a taxi! Wait a minute, what? Not only was my bad eyesight going to make me late to work, but most likely the cars following me would now be late too.
I started thinking about my actions and of the times I act differently based on who is watching. Like the police car that I thought was behind me. Pretty silly that I should be obeying the speed limits only some of the time. But truly there is only one that we should be concerned about who sees and knows everything. No one else matters. When I invited Christ to take charge of my life, I was asking him to be pilot of my life. But have I really relinquished all control? I got to thinking of what image is reflected in me as I live my life. Is Christ’s image reflected in me in my words and in my actions? I humbly admit, not all the time. But, if I ask for His help in His daily intervention I don’t have to worry as I am relinquishing control over to Him. The wonderful thing that I can claim is the “joy that spills over” now that I have the spirit of Christ within me. I am happy (even in the midst of grief). Just yesterday while I stood at my book sharing event, a very dear friend came over to me and whispered in my ear, he said: ” I bet this still hurts like hell as you stand here with that very big smile on, doesn’t it”? My reply was “it does and that it would serve no purpose to gravitate toward my grief. I choose joy”.
I remember once when my children were very little and they were riding with me as we drove along a back country road, our car broke down. Cell phones had not been invented back then and I needed to knock on a stranger’s door to ask to use their phone. After I had called my husband to come and I stood there chatting with the owner of the house, she asked me a question, ” You’re a Christian, aren’t you”? I smiled and nodded affirmatively but at that point in my faith walk, I was not so comfortable sharing about it. She told me that she could just see the “joy that spills over” in my eyes. Wow! What a beautiful compliment.
Last month on a business trip to Dallas, I encountered a similar experience. The flight attendant as she spoke over the loud speaker first announced that she was in training before she continued to provide the typical emergency instructions on how to use our life vests and oxygen masks. A little later during the beverage service she made a mistake in my drink order and I told her not to worry that she was doing great. She stopped and looked at me and said to me: ” You’re a believer aren’t you”? I smiled as I told her that “yes, as a matter of fact, I am”. She then asked me if I would be willing to pray for her. She explained that the job was very hard; extremely stressful and that the day before she actually fell to pieces and cried on the job!. I reassured her, asked her name and promised to pray for her, which I did. At the end of the flight as I exited the plane with the other passengers, my new flight attendant friend grabbed me and hugged me and thanked me. Pretty incredible how God uses us to comfort one another as our “joy spills over”. By inviting Christ into the pilot seat of my life, I can claim His joy as I live my life, in the happy times and even in the sad and challenging times too.
So just thought that I would leave you with this thought to consider: Is your faith walk causing your joy to spill over? If not, then invite Jesus to take the controls.
“These things I have spoken to you that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be full”
Yesterday I left work mid-day and headed home. The backroads on my drive were quiet with hardly any traffic and for some reason I decided to pull over at the site where Kenzie had her accident. I pass the site two or more times every single day and seldom pull over there. The only other time that I can recall pulling over in my car was on New Years’ Eve a few years ago. That New Years’ Eve I sat in the dark and considered the year behind me and wondered about the year ahead of me. I talked to Makenzie and I prayed to God. Anyway yesterday I sat there in the quiet and listened to the wind. It made me think about that cold blustery windy January morning when Kenz lost control of her car. I sat there and wondered what might have gone through her mind those final moments. Did her life experiences flash before her at lightening speed? Did she have any thoughts of heaven? Or did she just feel fear? I have heard that people when faced with imminent death see a bright distant light and are captivated by it sometimes causing their spirit to head for it. Makenzie always liked watching shows about this and watched one with her boyfriend the night before her accident. I believe the program was called “Heading For the Light”. I always felt that Kenzie would be so intrigued that she would head for that great light if placed in that circumstance. She would hope to see heaven in all its glory!
The thought of Heaven holds so much promise for me and we taught our children the same based on what we know Biblically about heaven. I understand that in heaven there will be no illness, no pain and no tears. It is written that we will all have perfect physical bodies although I am not sure if our physical bodies will be as we know them now. We are told that in God’s house there are many mansions. I suppose we all have our own ideas of what heaven looks like. I visualize amazing gardens and to see the Tree of Life first hand. Wow!
So why all this talk of heaven? There have been a few deaths in our community this past week and I hope that anyone who may read my blog will be reassured of the promise that we have in heaven. God has promised that whoever truly believes in Jesus as savior, their place is reserved in heaven for eternity.
For those who are grieving the loss of someone, I want to suggest that you try to flip your emotions, with the understanding that we WILL see them again and what a reunion it will be! To think that our loved ones will no longer suffer and will be in a better place than we can begin to imagine is good news. Trust God with your heart and soul giving your grief over to Him to manage. I hope you can begin to live your life with eyes and heart wide open! The Godwinks are there for you.
From: Letters to Heaven
SCORE: GOD ONE,
Hearts on earth say in the course,
of a joyful experience,
“I don’t want this to ever end.” But it invariably does.
The hearts of those in heaven say,
“I want this to go on forever.”
And it will. There can be no better news than this.
In loving memory of Tim O’llari . God is good.
Songs received as Godwinks are precious. Because I’m a writer, words are such an important vessel to be used in communicating. Words can bless but also can hurt. I remember my husband always impressing upon our children “be careful what you say because you can’t take words back”. There is so much truth in that.
This past week I had the good(e) fortune of sharing Kenzie’s story at the Salisbury Library. In conjunction with the book talk, I sometimes like to incorporate information about organ donation as I’m a volunteer for New England Organ Bank. The two seem to go hand in hand. Each time I share at one of these events,, I try to invite a guest speaker, an organ recipient, so that they can share their story and perspective as their’s is different than mine. They got another chance at life but then I guess that it would be important to add here that in some ways I did too. If Kenzie had not given her gifts, her story would have ended when she left us, but as I have suggested in my book, her gifts have given us an additional most extraordinary chapter to her life as we see first hand how her gifts have blessed so many.
So at the suggestion of Jenn at New England Organ Bank, I contacted David who is also a volunteer. David is a double recipient of a liver and a kidney. His story is compelling and what is so neat is that he too has Godwink stories of his own to share as he contintues to realize God’s provision in his life with the little Godwinks; the little reminders of his donor, Kevin. One really resonated with my heart and so with David’s permission and blessing I have decided to share it here.
During the book talk event David shared with us that he had always had a dream of going to the Grand Canyon but due to his dibilitating illness never had the chance to go. After his double transplant and recovery, his parents gave he and his wife the gift of a trip to the Grand Canyon. David also shared that one of his favorite musicians is Dave Matthews and that he learned later on that his donor also loved Dave Matthews’ music. When David and his wife got on the plane to take their trip to the Grand Canyon, David plugged in his earbuds and the song that he heard first was a song sung by Kenny Chesney and Dave Matthews. The song’s title: “I’m Alive and Well”. Wow! What a perfect Godwink! I wanted to share a few of the lyrics here and hope you will find and listen to the full version.
I’m Alive and Well, Kenny Chesney, Dave Matthews
It’d be easy to add up all the pain
And all the dreams you sat and watched go up in flames
Dwell on the wreckage as it smolders in the rain
But not me, I’m alive
And today you know that’s good enough for me
Breathin’ in and out’s a blessing can’t you see
Today’s the first day of the rest of my life
And I’m alive and well, I’m alive and well
Stars are dancin’ on the water here tonight
It’s good for the soul when there’s not a soul in sight
This boat has caught its wind and brought me back to life
Now I’m alive and well
I remember several years ago attending a Donors’ appreciation banquet given by New England Organ Bank and Kenzie was honored. Makenzie’s bestie Kayla along with friends Yona and Pam went with me. It was a nice event but it placed that all too familiar lump in my throat as I saw her name with picture, overhead on the digital presentation accompanied by music. “Why my daughter”? Words articulated by me all too often in those first years, and the same words thought daily even now in the sixth year following. My husband then would try to console me as he hugged me and he whispered in my ear “why anyone’s daughter”? Again, so much truth in that. So, as we drove home from the banquet, Kayla, Yona, Pam and myself, we reminisced about Kenzie. Pam started to listen to the lyrics of an unfamiliar song playing on the radio and “shhh ed” us to listen in as well. Although I cannot recall the song, the lyrics spoke to all of us in that it was telling us not to be sad because “I’m alive”. Certainly a Godwink just when we needed it.
I want to propose that you listen intently to the lyrics of the songs that you hear, especially when you need encouragement. The Godwinks are there for us if we live our lives with eyes and heart wide open.
Leaving you with this scripture verse and also a favorite child’s song:
And the love comes a tumbling down…..
As I read my daily ten pages of a good book, I am prompted to write here about the book that I am reading. But first I need to tell about how I first was introduced to it as it has a significant place in my story.
Traveling back to that painful weekend of January 2010, I remember a walk that my husband and I took down that empty hospital corridor. .As we frequented and paced that hallway and waited to hear of any improvements in Kenzie’s critical condition, Bob turned and said to me: “if you want to get involved in that small group now, I’ll go with you”. What he was referring to was that I had been pestering him for over a year to sign up for a small group within our church. Small groups are groups formed of 8-12 people who meet bi- weekly for social and spiritual connection. I had always wanted to get to know better the people with whom I attend church, as we share our faith, our common belief, and worship together weekly. To just smile and ask “how are you” and follow it up with ” have a great week” just didn’t feel like enough. For Bob, it was different, and this was asking a lot! He was not as motivated to spend time with strangers getting to know them better as this meant revealing his personal side too. Maybe it’s a guy thing, but I made a mental note as we walked that I would take him up on his offer.
Losing Kenzie was devastating and talking about it, although I was encouraged to do so, was far more difficult in the beginning, than it is for me now. So our associate pastor Ron, arranged participation for us in a small group, a group of couples, hand picked to align with our interests as well as helping us find the emotional support that we needed. It took us nine months ( my fault) to finally attend one of their get togethers as I was trapped or stuck with not wanting to share with others, never mind strangers this personal journey of grief that I was on. Retrospectively I now wish we had connected sooner. This small group was a collection of diverse Christian friends to include a physician, physical therapist, police officer, law student, grandmother, nurse, teacher to mention some. These new friends were compassionate, insightful, intelligent, funny and filled with the joy and the love of Christ. What a blessing.
When we joined the group they were reviewing and discussing a video series based on the book that I am now reading entitled: ” If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat” written by: John Ortberg. It was interesting to hear others’ perspectives. We talked about those talents that we have but are reluctant or even fearful to use, in the capacity that we feel God might be calling us. Perhaps this was all part of God’s perfect plan, as He interlocked the pieces of the puzzle to the journey that I was taking. He was using these new connections and experiences with this small group of believers with whom Bob and I were now sharing every other Friday evening. I was in my boat and needed to get out. What I mean here is that I needed to let people into my life, as I shared our story, in order to let go of the sorrow and eventually find the joy.
So I recently found this book from which the video series was created and purchased it. What an excellent read! I wanted to share a short paragraph here by Author John Ortberg:
“I want to ask you to exercise your imagination for a moment. Imagine that your life is over, and you are led to a small room. There are two chairs in the room, one for you and one for God ( who gets a very large chair), and there’s a VCR. God puts a tape into the machine. It has your name on it and is labeled What Might Have Been.
Imagine watching all that God might have done with your life if you had let Him”.
This summer I have been seeing a bumpersticker often which reads: “SALT LIFE”. It reminds me of a sermon I once listened to about “our saltiness”. The scripture verse was: Matthew 5 :13-16 from NIV
Salt and Light
13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. 14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
The sermon message included how salt is used as a seasoning and a preservative and of how important an ingredient it is in this world. The question raised: In our Christian walk, how are we using our salt ( seasoning? preservative?) in our lives and in the lives of others? So I ask myself this question, have I lost my saltiness ? Is my salt shaker closed or am I using it sparingly or abundantly to season the world. And am I hiding my light or shining it bright to share the light with others?
As I continue to read this book about getting out of the boat and walking on water, I am struct by the notion that yes, I have gotten out of my boat since with God’s help, I took a leap of faith and started sharing our story; Makenzie’s story. Although many people like my style of writing, some people have uttered words to me of surprise, chagrin and even disapproval of the fact that I share something so personal; my innermost thoughts and deepest emotions. All that I can say is that this is where it gets REAL for me. To circumvent my feelings and only share what might be considered “politically” correct or not emotionally committed, would not be allowing God to use my “gift or talent” in His mightiest capacity. Only God knows how he will bless this blog and our book.
Hoping that you will choose to use your own saltiness as you live out your greatest potential in life. Prayerfully consider how your gifts and talents can be used to better the world, and just get out of that boat and try walking on water. And in the end when you are sitting in that viewing room and God takes and places your DVD in His player, you will feel satisfaction and jubilation. The DVD that holds your name will be entitled “A Salt Life, Water Walking at It’s Finest”.
Last week I was priviledged to be a guest on a weekly Podcast called “WOW Tuesday”. The weekly podcast is on radio station WSKB Community Radio and is physically located at Westfield State University. I had the pleasure of meeting the show host, Bob Plasse, at the Westfeild Articulture event this past spring. As we talked and I shared Makenzie’s story with him, he became fascinated with her story which is now our book “Wish You a Goode Journey”. Being invited to be a part of his show was exciting as this was my first experience in this capacity and he and the other guys there in the DJ booth made me feel right at home. This after I was trapped in their elevator for the longest four to five minutes as I rode up to their office on the third floor. I wished he had warned me that the elevator was tortoise slow as my panic set in when the elevator did not move and the doors would not open! I was not only worried about arriving late for a live broadcast where I was the guest speaker but also that I might not make it out of that elevator. After I pressed all of the bells and alarms and no one answered, I simply bowed my head and prayed. The elevator doors opened. “WOW“! Why didn’t I just pray first? Why is prayer the final action for some of us when we figure out we can’t do it alone?
Bob Plasse prepared well for the show. He had read the book and had dog-eared readied many of its pages and also selected several wonderful songs to play during the breaks that tied into our topic. The first song was a jazz hit called ” It’s A Good Day”. So appropriate and an energized tune for this our 7:00 a.m. meeting. He also played for Makenzie, the Taylor Swift song “Love Story” as it was a song that I wrote a story about in the book. (Kenzie named her car Romeo because of that song). Bob was so easy to chat with and he was genuine in discussing with me my journey after losing our daughter, sister, and friend. Little did I know that his previous career had actually been in counseling and therapy. He is perfect in his role on this show “WOW Tuesday”.
Kenzie with her sweet ride “Romeo”
As Bob asked the questions, it was clear to me that he really loved Kenzie’s story. He earnestly asked all about her greatest gifts and about the recipients of her gifts. When we got to the subject of Godwinks he was very excited to share with me a couple of his own Godwinks received following the death of his dear mother. (I encourage you to listen in on the link to the actual show which can be found on my media/events tab above).
So I found it surreal to come back to Westfield State, as only seven years ago I had been touring the campus with Kenzie and a few of her friends as we looked at Universities. I had hoped that Kenz would decide on an in-state school to further her education but, the boyfriend won out and she had planned on attending Plymouth University where her boyfriend Matt also attended. As I arrived last Tuesday morning for that radio interview and parked my car, several lingering thoughts entered my mind. For one, I had wondered if I was actually re-tracing steps that my daughter and I had taken during that college tour on that summer day not so long ago. Never in my imagination had a thought crossed my mind, just seven years earlier, that I would be asked to be a guest on a radio show about a book that I had just written. And that the book would be about the journey that I was given after losing my beloved daughter! Truly life is full of twists and turns, bumps and bruises and so much more! And I think I probably have mentioned before that it is up to each of us, individually, how we respond to what life hurls at us.
This time of year always catches me off guard as college bound students head out for the next chapter in their lives. And I realize that I still have unresolved feelings, perhaps even feelings of resentment buried deep in my soul. Sometimes I feel Makenzie was cheated out of life as she died so young. She was suppose to go to college and enjoy all the experiences that college life brings! When I see the posts on social media of these parents who are crying over their empty nests, I just wish they realized how fortunate they are, as what they love is not lost, just changed. But now I feel embarassed that I shared openly my negative emotion here, as this my blog page is suppose to be all inspiring and filled with positivity! For a fleeting moment and thought, I digress.
As he wound up the interview Bob played a final song that he had personally selected for me. He told me it was a Godwink. He explained that he was searching for the perfect song and started looking first at music from his all time favorite Babs (Barbara Streisand). “WOW”! I got goosebumps as he shared this, as she is also one of my favorite artists. Maybe it was a Godwink! He then jumped ahead to tell me that the song that he found was actually recorded by Jason Gould, who is Barbara Streisand’s son. The song is called “Hello” and below I share some of the lyrics. It is an amazing song and I hope you will actually find it and listen to it as just reading the lyrics will not do it justice here:
Hello by: Jason Gould
Morning and night will fall, I’m holding on and letting go Fragile and soft your face, Still it comes to me and fills this place, again
Chorus: You’re on the other side, I know, but I still hear your voice behind the door And I didn’t get to say my last goodbye, All I can say is hello, hello, hello
Together then torn apart, The winter storm, the flowers torn What will these days become for you have gone, and hours alone again
I’ll meet you where the stars and the sun rise in the sky, Where the memories of our lives collide Where the time will run away, where the moment never dies, forever you and I
As I sat there with the headphones on and listened to this perfect song, I connected with it, tears streaming down my face, “WOW”, I never realized til now, that the word hello can be just as sad as goodbye.
( to listen to the podcast interview, click on the link under the tab for Media/Events above and then find it under audio).