Prayer Needs of Grieving Families

To help those grieving, you can pray for:

  • The physical strength to get through the extra tasks associated with a death—from the funeral itself to the phone calls to all the creditors, insurance companies, etc.
  • The emotional strength to get through the same—dealing with all the paperwork and all the expressions of sympathy
  • A clear head to remember all the details that need to be taken care of
  • The ability to let people help them, regardless of how uncomfortable it can be at times
  • Peaceful sleep
  • An appetite
  • The strength to ask for help when they need it
  • The strength to ask to be left alone when they need it
  • The freedom from self-consciousness when they tear up a million times and in a million places
  • Ease in actually saying the words that their loved one has died
  • Loving friends who will listen (especially important when a wife loses her husband—those words she needs to say each day need to go somewhere)
  • Peace through the holidays, especially the first ones without a loved one—birthdays, anniversaries, even the first time they do anything they always did with the other person
  • Financial peace—especially if they were not the financial person in the family before
  • Freedom from “what-if” types of questions and regrets—to forgive themselves for not being perfect and to know without a doubt that the other person loved them even if they were not perfect
  • The ability to trust fully and completely in God—to crawl up in His lap and let Him drive for a while
  • The ability to answer all the tough questions they are asked—especially those asked by their children
  • Discernment to know when to let others in their family alone and when to push them into talking about any issues about the person who passed away—especially their children
  • Having the freedom to realize that all grieve in a different way, and just because theirs is different than someone else’s doesn’t mean it is wrong or incomplete or any reflection of how much they cared for the person who died
  • Support from others who have been through the type of grief that they are facing—especially those a little farther down the path of this journey who can give them advice and help them know that they are doing OK on their journey—someone to show them where the potholes in the road are so that they can slow down for them
  • The strength to get out and be with others
  • The ability to recognize the signs of loneliness and depression and the strength to do something about them if they are facing them
  • Peace about being alone—learning to be alone without being lonely
  • The strength to seek out a “new normal” for themselves and their family
  • The freedom to know that grief has no time limit or set of specific steps that they need to go through and to give themselves a break if they seem to take one step forward and two steps back
  • Discernment to know what changes to make in their lives and which things to leave the way they were—finding a balance between old traditions and new ones, and old ways of life and new ones
  • The ability to see God’s hand in their lives, and to look for ways that they can glorify Him during the grief process
  • The strength to cry out to God when they are hurting and to accept the comfort that He gives—and to look to His people for the same
  • The strength to realize that God never gives them more than they can handle with His help, and that He will be there today, tomorrow, and forever
  • The ability to trust Jeremiah 29:11:  “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you.  Plans to give you hope and a future.”

Once a Marine Family, Always a Marine Family

A couple weeks ago, we had the extreme joy of going to the graduation of a dear young man from Basic Training at Parris Island.  Ooorah!

It was also a time of reflection for us as a family.

You see, Keith graduated from Parris Island 35 years ago this May.

We are a Marine family…yet the boys know only bits and pieces of that life, especially the little ones, since Keith retired when I was pregnant with the oldest.  Oh, they have been on base, seen the pageantry at Memorial Day (Keith is buried at Quantico and we are there for the celebration every year), and know quite a few service members, active duty and retired, from church…but they did not live the life.  Neither did I for that long, since we married near the end of Keith’s military career.

But I want them to know.

Patriotism is, to many, an old-fashioned value.  Not so in this family.  Keith proudly served his country, and talked about at least one of the boys following him some day…becoming a third generation Marine.  Maybe after seeing the obstacles, the hardship, and also the honor, courage, and commitment, one of my boys will choose to follow in his footsteps…and step on the yellow footprints.

As we walked around the base, listening to this dear young man’s story of his experience, Keith was constantly in our thoughts.  I had been on Parris Island once with Keith and heard his recounting of the island and the training.  Even nearly 20 years later, he had very strong feelings and memories.  I shared with the boys what I could remember that their dad had said.  I pulled out his boot camp pictures and let them laugh at his bald head and serious expression.  I shared the memory book Keith and I had made together as he neared the end of his military career, recounting the stories and awards.

As we walked through the museum on base, we saw pictures of Marines through time and what they did while at basic, and in their careers.  And I recalled my Marine Corps birthday balls, Keith in his blues, Keith is his Alphas, and in the utilities he wore each day for 20 years.

And when they played the National Anthem and the Marine Corps Hymn, I cried…as I do every time.  Freedom isn’t free, and my husband knew that, respected that, and did something about it.

The last stanza of the Marine Corps Hymn reads:

Here’s health to you and to our Corps
Which we are proud to serve
In many a strife we’ve fought for life
And never lost our nerve;
If the Army and the Navy
Ever look on Heaven’s scenes;
They will find the streets are guarded
By United States Marines.

My Marine is now guarding the streets of glory.  I miss him every day, sometimes every minute.  I am sure that 20 years down the road, no matter what happens, I will miss him.

But, thanks to wonderful experiences like the one we had with our dear friends, my boys will have an understanding of who their dad was, what he did, what was important to him.

And so will I.

And for that I am very, very thankful.

 Sing to God, sing in praise of his name,
extol him who rides on the clouds;
rejoice before him—his name is the Lord.
A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,
is God in his holy dwelling.
God sets the lonely in families,
he leads out the prisoners with singing;
but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.

– Psalm 68:4-6

 

Treasuring in My Heart – Part 2

When Matthew was baptized about a year after Keith died, many people said to me, “I’m sure Keith is here watching today.”  I agree:  if it is possible, he was.

But therein lies the issue.  What can we really see from Heaven?  What is the relationship between this place and that?

As you may imagine, I have speculated a lot on that.

I say speculated because I have no clear evidence of exactly how it all works.  God did not give us a blueprint of Heaven in the Bible.

The Bible clearly tells us that angels are separate creatures from us (see Psalm 8), so I don’t hold to the “guardian angel” belief (see also Psalm 91).  The Bible also says there is no pain or sorrow in Heaven (Revelation 21:4), so I wonder how much of this place a new creature in Heaven could take seeing.  Wouldn’t he miss us?  Wouldn’t he long for life here with us?  It boggles the mind to think about how that could work!

On the other hand, the Bible also tells us in Hebrews 11-12 that we have a great cloud of witnesses who watch us and cheer for us when we do well.

What does it all mean?  How am I going to take something as complex as Heaven and put it into terms that I can understand?  How can I explain it to my children?  We are trying to understand something that is so much bigger and more complex than we are that we cannot hope to fully understand.  Like an ant trying to describe the universe.  Like a 2-dimensional creature trying to explain a 3-dimensional world.  Can’t be adequately done.

Bottom line is that I can only speak to what I think and feel.  And…as long as it is not contrary to Scripture, I don’t see that there is a problem with it. We are all speculating anyway.

So here are a couple thoughts on the subject.

I feel like the glory of Heaven, the end of the story (or the beginning, depending on how you look at it) so far outweighs anything here that this place cannot possibly make a creature of Heaven sad…God or our loved ones.

My dad’s favorite phrase to me when some teenage “calamity” hit my life that had me totally stressed out, was “Who will know in 20 years?”  And, usually, within a few days, whatever I had considered something I would never get over, I had totally forgotten.  Perhaps the scheme of time for eternity makes anything and everything we go through here fall into that category.  Our loved ones can look at it the same way my dad did…as no big deal in the grand scheme of things.

So…as I ponder my sweet boy’s baptism tomorrow, and the inevitable comments about Keith’s being present, I can say a few things with certainty:

…there will be rejoicing in heaven;
…my wonderful friends and family in Christ will rejoice with me here on earth;
…I will be thinking of Keith, wishing he could be here to hold my hand and watch with me;

…and I will cry…tears of sorrow mingled with tears of great joy…the best kind of  tears.

Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength. – Nehemiah 8:10b

Treasuring in My Heart – Part 1

Well, he’s done it!  This is a good “it!”

My seven year old has studied.  He has pondered and asked questions.  And now he’s ready…to commit his life to Christ through baptism.

Praise God and hallelujah!

Now, in this mom brain, that has brought about a series of emotions and feelings, all in short order.

My first thought when he told me was a very human response, I think.

Well, I guess I’m doing OK raising these kids without Keith.

Again, praise God and hallelujah!

Not that I think I am going to mess them up; and not that I think it’s really all up to me.  I just water those seeds in that sweet little soul and pray…and pray…and pray for God to bring the increase.  And He does.

And then my thoughts turn to Keith.  I want to tell him…that I’m carrying on…that we are progressing as a family…that we are moving forward with our lives here on earth.

I want him to be proud of me and the job I’m doing.  I would give anything to see that smile and the love in his eyes.

These are his kids, too.  I want to raise them to be the men of God we dreamed they would be.  That desire has only increased since Keith’s death.  I want my sons to be in the image of their earthly father, who had his eyes always on his Heavenly Father.  That is the best legacy that I can give them.

I have a quote that hangs on my wall that says the following (I’m afraid I cannot find the source):

Motherhood
It will be overwhelming.
It will be difficult.
 It will bring you to the end of yourself.
And at the end, you will find Him.
Mothering kids is hard…very hard.  Single mothering can be an extreme challenge, one that I often feel absolutely unable to complete.
But the good news is that I do not do this alone, even with Keith on the other side of the divider between here and Heaven.
And God’s grace is sufficient to cover me at my weakest, my most ineffective, my most sinful, my most foolish, my most selfish.
Praise God for His provision! But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. – 2 Corinthians 12:9

Black Ice

After a week of rainy, yucky weather when I have not been able to walk, I was excited to see a clear, but cold, sky this morning.  I do so enjoy my morning walk!

I suited up and stepped out the door and started across the street…only to have to catch myself from falling on my can!

Black ice…little patches of it.  Too small to affect cars and school buses, but doing a number on my balance.  They were forcing me to mince along rather than take full strides.  Since much of my walk is along sidewalk-less roads, I turned and headed home, not wanting to wrench a knee or hip with awkward muscle movements…or worse yet, slide under a car.

In short, I got a little scared.  So I headed home to safety.

In this widow-walk that I know so well, there are moments like this, too.

I can be traveling along, taking life as it comes, trusting the Lord and moving forward, when all of a sudden…those unexpected moments come and I am slipping and sliding…in my walk and in my faith.

It is often something totally innocuous that sets me off…a song on the radio, a gesture from one of my kids that is so like their dad, a phrase heard in passing.

Then I have to slow down, take stock of what I do have, make the decision to either continue where I am and what I am doing, or take the high road and exit the situation.

Unlike this morning, I don’t always have the freedom to turn around and walk home, giving up until another day.  I need to press on.  The bills must be paid; the decisions must be made; the children must be disciplined.  But that doesn’t mean I do it alone.

God is with me every step of the way, whether I am striding along or delicately, painstakingly picking my way.  And He always will be.

God is our refuge and strength,
    an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
    and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
    and the mountains quake with their surging. –
Psalm 46:1-3

Remembering Hope

A couple years ago we met a new family at soccer.  As we were talking about our common love for Christ, our common activities, and our common friends, I shared that I am a widow.

I don’t always share my widow status with others. Never wanting to garner pity, I prayerfully consider before sharing this fact. Is sharing this part of my testimony going to be beneficial to them or to me…or would it simply be some sort of stumbling block, causing a sense of difference between me and them.

This day I was rewarded for my sharing with a picture that has stayed with me since then.

That dad, a big, strapping guy, military reservist, currently in law enforcement, was nearly undone at the thought that my little boys did not have a daddy here on earth.  He looked at me, not with pity, but with a compassion that stirred my soul and still gives me a warm feeling when I remember on it, coming close to tears as he reflected on boys growing up without their dad.  And right then I knew what kind of father he was.

And, as usual, it got me to thinking.

Jackson is currently reading Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes.  In it, one of the characters, Mrs. Lapham, continuously talks about her “poor, fatherless girls” as a pity play.

Now, I could go there.  I could pity myself.  I could bemoan my state in life, the lack of a dad here for the boys.  I could see this even with our friend and just one more example of how much we are missing.

I choose instead to see hope.

I see in this friend the fact that good men do exist.  Strong fathers exist.  Men care about others.

It may not be in God’s plan to give us another man in our lives.  But it may be.  Only He knows at this point.

Regardless, He’s got it covered…my life, and that of my boys…and He will give us what we need.

Of that I am absolutely certain.

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. – Luke 12:6-7

Paving Stones

We have a group of widows (and a few widowers) who meet together a couple times a month for support.

This group has been invaluable in my life for healing…and to create a sense of normalcy.

Right after Keith died, God was gracious enough to give me 5…yes 5…new friends who were widows.  I met these ladies in a variety of ways:  friend of friend, new nurse at the doctor’s office, chance encounters.  Meeting with them was wonderful in those first months of loneliness, pain, confusion, etc., etc., etc.  They had only a few things in common:  the Lord, me, and the 300-lb gorilla of widowhood.

Realizing what a joy this is…and being of a sort of Julie-the-Cruise-Director mentality, I organized them to start meeting together.  Our times are mostly fellowship, but it is fellowship without the awkwardness.  We get each other.

All of us have in our lives dear friends and family who want so badly to help, but are just not sure what to say, how to say it, how to be supportive.  They are not sure how to deal with us on this grief path.  And they have no idea how to lead us.

Sometimes you can almost see their inner turmoil.  Do I laugh at the jokes?  Will there be tears?  What is the proper response both she…and I…should make here?  What if she wants to talk about sex or dating?

It would be funny if it weren’t so painful–for all involved.

Our group is called Travelers on a Different Journey.  We did not choose to be here, but we rest in God to get us through, trust in Him for all things, and lean on each other to guide the way.  The fellowship in the Lord is sweet, the people sweeter.  We have around 25 involved in the ministry.

My sweet friend Theresa, widowed 14 months before me, puts it this way, “I may not be able to pave a smooth road for you, but I can tell you where the potholes are so you can avoid them, or at least slow down.”

And this group works!

It is never more evident than on a light like last night.

We met for dinner at PF Changs (yum!).  One of the gals brought a friend, Wanda, who was widowed not quite a year ago who had not yet met the group of us.

Well, Wanda fit right in!  We gained a sister, and she gained a group of them.  I know that my journey will be a little sweeter for my association with her, and pray that hers will be as well by association with us.

Life is hard.  Sometimes it is harder.  But God is good and He is there every step of the way, to provide paving stones to smooth our path.

I am so thankful for my pavers!!

I pray you see the pavers He has provided along your journey.

And of course, that you know and trust the ultimate Paving Stone…Jesus Christ! 
I will give You thanks, for You answered me; You have become my salvation.  The stone the builders rejected has become the Cornerstone; the Lord has done this,and it is marvelous in our eyes. 
— Psalm 118:21-23