God Wins…but can I ?

A Mother's Journey


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Our Future – Dancing on a Star

You may have said to me, or may think, “Marie, I don’t know how you did it. I couldn’t do it.” The thought of walking your child through a terminal illness horrifies you. The truth is that the experience is horrifying…and draining… and terrible.  And just about every negative emotion that exists.

I imagine that you think you would fall to pieces, melt, curl up in a ball, or freeze up.

The truth is that if your child, or another loved one, had a terminal illness…you could do it. You could do it because you love your child. Love kicks in and provides the energy that gives you “the fight.” Love gives you the superhuman ability to withstand more than you could imagine.

Love gave our family the strength to: take Leah to dozens of clinic appointments, wait for scans and test results, drive two hours a day for 12 weeks to radiation appointments, see her through in-hospital chemo treatments, decorate her hospital and hospice rooms, sit for countless hours by her side, coax her to take medicine, advocate for her with medical professionals, comfort her…

But where does this kind of love come from?

By the time Leah was in hospice, my spiritual, emotional and physical world was depleted.  My prayers were simple “Jesus, just use me. I want Leah to see you in me.”

During Leah’s final nine days, we lived in the hospice facility with her. She wasn’t sleeping well and neither were we. We didn’t leave her side at all. Exhausted, I kept praying “Jesus, just use me.”

Wanting to say meaningful and spiritually comforting things, I could barely think – my mind and emotions were worn thin.  The day before Leah passed away, I felt compelled to whisper in her ear, “Leah, one day we’ll be dancing on a star together.” Leah gently moaned. I immediately thought, “Where did this thought come from?” I have no idea why I said “dancing on a star.”  None. 

There were several more words I shared, much to private to share with you, that I felt compelled to say.  As Leah left us for heaven, she was surrounded by love.

Weeks passed and I replayed our last moments together. In April, an unexpected, large, poster-like package arrived.  Opening it, I couldn’t believe my eyes.  A beautiful certificate was included from the National Star Registry.  Make-A-Wish learned of Leah’s passing and registered a star in her name!  I had no idea they did this beautiful act for their Make-A-Wish kids.  It took a few minutes to sink in … and then the tears flowed. 

YES!  We WILL be dancing on a star together – a star named Leah Guthrie in the constellation Orion. 

star registry

I have a gulp in my throat and tears now as I write.  There is no way that what went from my mouth to Leah’s ears to the naming of her star are a coincidence. I begged God to be present and intervene and He did.

So one future day, look for us on the star Leah Guthrie in the Orion constellation. Leah will be doing a lyrical dance and I may be doing a line dance, but we’ll be there together. Know that the Author of all love is there to help you through any trial – current or future. He clearly wanted me to know He was with us the whole time and will continue to be with us.

“Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:12-13   


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Warning! Not Microwaveable

Many people can’t believe this fact about me.  I don’t have a microwave.  Seriously.  We had a microwave and it broke.  Just never got it fixed. We got used to not having one and feel we don’t need one.  We learned to live without it.

There’s something I don’t like about microwaves anyway.

To use one, I’m standing in the kitchen, waiting impatiently for something to boil or cook, watching the timer, hearing the loud buzzer at the end of the microwave cycle.  The whole process bothers me.  When 90 seconds feels too long to boil something, that’s a problem.  I never really like the way food tastes cooked in a microwave anyway.

I have to admit, part of me feels like a rebel not having a microwave.

Our culture is just too obsessed about rushing everything.  We need to order, eat, shop, drive, learn – fast.  Speed is “in.”

Grief is definitely not microwaveable.  To me, it feels as though our culture doesn’t have the patience to deal with people grieving.  It intrigues me that not long ago, people were given the permission and expected to visibly mourn for at least an entire calendar year.

It was standard cultural practice to wear black clothing or a black arm band for a year after a loved one passed away.  It was a sign of dignity, respect and spiritual reflection. Somewhere along the way, it was decided that this practice wasn’t necessary or expected.

We do our loved ones a disservice to think we can quickly move on with our lives, cheer up, move on, be positive…and heal after losing them. I can’t even think about healing from losing my little miss Leah and mother right now. 

When we love deeply, we grieve deeply.  I don’t expect to ever fully “heal” or “get over” these two precious family members.  I can relate to this quote a friend sent me.

Image

I do believe God eventually will heal all my wounds.  Yet, I know He understands that I need time to grieve.  Otherwise, He wouldn’t say in Psalm 23:4 “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me.”  It is four months since Leah is gone and three months since my mom.  I expect to need comfort indefinitely. 

I hope you,my friends, are not rushing your grief.  Be a rebel with me and chose not to microwave …. your grief.


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What Every Parent Wants to Talk About

When I think about the parents who I know, there is one thing that lights up their faces and voices.  It’s talking about their children. Especially brand new parents!  Have you noticed this as well?  It can be sweet to hear all the stories and …. a bit much at the same time.   😉  I’ve been with moms and dads who are silent about world events, their own lives, their jobs – but get them talking about their children and they can talk for hours.

It’s no different for a parent whose child has passed away.  For the last several weeks, I had the priviledge of sitting around a table and sharing conversations with parents whose children have died.  Some children died quickly and unexpectedly.  Other children left this earth after long-term suffering and illness. But, we comfort one another by listening – and sharing our stories.

Avoidance is a reoccurring theme in talking with parents of children who have died.  Not our avoidance, but the avoidance of others in our lives – often close family and friends – in talking about our child who is now no longer with us. Even to the extreme of not mentioning his or her name.  And this stings….because again, as parents, we love talking about all our children. I believe God has wired us with this desire to rejoice and celebrate our children.

This quote says it best below:

Edwards quote
I think this quote also applies to others in our lives who we have lost – parents, friends, siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles….

Leah is still a part of my family.  Although in a different way.  When someone asks how many children I have, I will always answer two: my son Grant and my daughter in heaven Leah.  I am sharing with you that it is always ok to ask me about Leah and talk about her.   I welcome sharing memories about her.

Right now, I will be the parent who shares the photo in my wallet and a few things about Leah.  My favorite photo:

 

Leah favorite
Leah loved being with her friends, shopping at Ulta, reading good adventure books, eating mac and cheese, traveling to history sites in Nashville, wearing cool hats, listening to good pop music, watching “Cake Boss” and ‘DC Cupcakes”, getting manicures and pedicures, reading the Psalms, visiting Paris, dancing, laughing at her parents and brother’s silly behavior, our dog Riley, hanging with Aunt Kathy and … did I say being with her friends?  Of course, there was so much more to my girl.

She was one of the bravest people I have ever met.  She didn’t complain through her ordeal with cancer and tried very hard to stay positive.  I found notes on her phone that said “Hey little fighter…soon it will be brighter.” And “God whatever comes my way I will trust you.”

So, if you have a memory of Leah, please share one with me – either here in the comments section or drop me a note.  Or, if you didn’t know Leah, I’d love for you to share something special about someone who you lost with me.  I want to hear.


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What Dick Van Dyke Taught me about Loving Leah

As a little girl, I could never get enough of The Dick Van Dyke Show. It was fun to watch Rob, Laura, Buddy and Sally get in and out of hysterically funny situations. Hearing the signature opening music and seeing Rob trip over that ottoman became part of my life growing up.

As I got older, I didn’t watch the show for years. Then, several years ago, I started introducing my children, Grant and Leah, to the shows that I loved as a kid such as: the Brady Bunch, Bewitched, That Girl, The Partridge Family – and my all time favorite – The Dick Van Dyke show.

To my surprise, Leah LOVED watching the crazy antics of Rob Petrie.

It was enjoyable to see her reaction to the funny skits such as when Laura decided to become a blond, when Rob got amnesia and wound up at a crazy party, when Sally advertised on national TV she wanted a husband, when Laura opened Rob’s mail and a boat expanded in their living room and on and on…..

dick van dyke.

After Leah had surgeries and chemotherapy, we watched lots of TV.  The Dick Van Dyke Show is on Netflix, so it became a favorite past time for us – giving us something positive on which to focus. Dick Van Dyke marathons helped us relax and fall asleep.

Leah, more of an introvert, wasn’t a chatty person.  And I really like to talk. It was a challenge for me, an extrovert, to relate to Leah’s communication style.

I wanted to ask her so many questions and talk about lots of topics. Talking didn’t comfort her. What she needed was just for me to be in the room with her and watch an entertaining show. Her love language was time together.

So, this extrovert had to learn to be quiet-just sit-and be present.  It was hard. In doing so, I learned Leah loved good humor and had a great sense of humor.

I think we watched every episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show, well over 100 of them, at least 10 times.  Seriously.  

Wanting to surprise Leah last spring, I wrote “Rob”and asked him to send Leah an autographed photo and he did.  What an amazingly kind person.

Looking back, I believe God was working through Dick Van Dyke’s voice and humor to comfort Leah in a unique way – especially the last months of her illness.  I am grateful that God used a talented actor and my favorite, timeless comedy to bring joy to my daughter’s life during such a difficult time. 

I wrote Dick Van Dyke again a couple of weeks ago to thank him….sharing that if I didn’t have the chance to thank him in person on earth, Leah and I will thank him in heaven. His show enabled me to connect with my daughter in a priceless way.

So, if you are looking for a good laugh – watch one of Leah’s favorite episodes “The Curious Thing about Women.”

“…the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10