God Wins…but can I ?

A Mother's Journey


Debbie Reynold’s shocking death – some mothers understand too well

I cannot stop thinking about the sudden deaths of a daughter and mother, Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds. The mother’s death, only one day after the death of her daughter, shocks and stuns the world. Yet, there is a group of us who too easily understand Debbie’s agony to the point of death – and this group is mothers who have lost their children.

Both of these women’s deaths are tragic and I deeply hurt for their family and friends.

When I learned of Debbie’s passing, my immediate thought was “She died of a broken heart.” Then, I read that she had a stroke while discussing her daughter’s funeral plans and I immediately understood the strain of these moments. Her son said that the stress “was just too much.” I imagine her age and health played a role in her stroke, but losing Carrie was just impossible to bear.

Just too much for her to carry.

For losing a child is “perhaps the greatest sadness known in nature.”

I read this line on Facebook and it didn’t have an attribution, or I’d give the person credit. In my life, this statement proves real and true.

Debbie’s death is a tragically beautiful and powerful reminder of how deep a mother’s love is for her children. Her death confirms what we mothers, who have lost children, know – the loss of a child creates a heartbreak unlike any other.

As I read social media comments about Debbie’s death, many mothers don’t know if they could take the death of their child; it’s unnatural and unthinkable.

And some mothers, who have walked the valley of the shadow of death with their child, say they envy Debbie because she doesn’t have to live with the daily pain of losing her daughter. She is with her daughter for eternity. These are hard words for some people to hear and relate to, but are a real reaction for some mothers who have sons and daughters pass away.

From the moment my daughter was diagnosed with terminal cancer, I lived under a strain that is difficult to describe. I actually thought I was going to die from the heartache and pressure. The sorrow of seeing Leah suffer was painful to bear.

I prayed to God that He wouldn’t take me before Leah because, being in the late stage of cancer, she couldn’t bear the absence of her mother. It’s amazing what mothers can withstand for the sake of their children.

I survived my daughter’s death and am grateful, especially for my son, that I did. I had a great, great grandmother who lost four of her five children. She passed away of cholera upon the death of the last child. I imagine she was worn down, devastated and couldn’t take the agony of another loss.

My love for my daughter kept me going during her illness. Today, my love for my son, husband and people close to me keep me going.

I believe Debbie Reynold’s death shines a very public light on the power of a mother’s love for her child and the effects of grief. No matter how well a mother and child get along – whether the relationship is filled with joy or struggle – a mother’s love is like no other. Love is powerful and grief is one way of expressing deep love. (Of course, the deep emotions apply to a father’s love as well, but as a woman, I am sharing from a mother’s perspective.)

My hope is that by hearing Carrie and Debbie’s stories, people will grow in awareness, understanding and compassion toward mothers who lose their children to death.


Photo: Debbie Reynolds courtesy of Pixabay











Her White Christmas Stocking

As, I take you out of the Christmas box, your whiteness is in stark contrast

to all the red and green stockings.

You are soft, shiny and smooth.

Hanging by the fireplace, you proudly stand out in the room.

For this, I am glad.

You see, you represent a pure and precious love to me.

A love so deep that its earthly absence makes my heart ache.

Your striking presence doesn’t take away the sadness.

You do have a special spot on the mantle – a place that once held a colorful Christmas stocking filled with candy and other goodies.

A stocking that was joyfully picked up and rummaged through for many years.

Although my child won’t take you off the mantle this year, I will pick you up and put love notes inside you that share how much my dear one is treasured and missed.

Every year, until my last Christmas, you will lovingly hang next to my stocking.

You are so much more than a clean, bright piece of fabric.

You help me honor a life no longer on earth, but a beautiful and cherished soul in heaven who is living a new life – a life of joy and total bliss – free of tears, pain and sorrow.

You are her white Christmas stocking.


Note: As a way to honor my sweet daughter Leah, I place a white Christmas stocking on our fireplace mantle. I hope you find a way to honor the special people in your life who are no longer with you. It is very meaningful to honor our loved ones in tangible ways. They are forever loved and never forgotten.


A Christmas Message for My Friends

Dear Family and Friends,
Let me start by saying that I wish you all a wonderful holiday season. I hope it is filled with more memorable moments than you can count. If 2016 was a good year for you, I rejoice with you. If it was a hard year, I empathize with you and encourage you that a new year is on the way.

At this third Christmas without my daughter, you may be concerned and wonder how I am doing – but may be hesitant to ask. Or, we may have lost touch and you feel awkward asking.

For me, this Christmas season will be different – different than the last two without my girl. In some ways, it’s hard to believe that it is the third Christmas without my Little Miss. In other ways, it feels as though the last time I saw her was a lifetime ago.

This Christmas is going to be a year of firsts.

It will be the first year we are hosting Christmas Day without Leah here.

It’s the first time we are sending a family photo Christmas Card without Leah in it. Our family always did fun, and somewhat silly, Christmas photos. For example, one year our Christmas card imitated the Brady Bunch opening – with shots of our heads in squares looking different directions. Another year, our card pictured a cookie baking scene. Leah had so much fun doing this photo shoot because to make it “look real” we threw flour at one another. We were drenched in flour. My shy, little girl was delighted with that photo session.

For the first two years after she passed away, we didn’t send a photo card. One day this year, my son asked, “Mom, why don’t we do a Christmas family picture any more?” I really had no answer. So, I scheduled a photo session with my sister last week. I’m actually happy with the way it turned out. As I stared at the card I thought, “Wow, what a nice, genuinely happy family.” 

And seconds after this thought, sadness hit.

Our new reality, without Leah, feels familiar.

And this thought creates a type of grief.

I call this mini-grief moment an aftershock. Just as the earth has aftershocks days or weeks after a significant earthquake, so I’ve found that my heart has aftershocks after my tumultuous loss.

Why do I share this perspective about aftershocks in a Christmas letter of all places? Shouldn’t a Christmas letter highlight only happy thoughts and moments?

I share it because, although I am more engaged in social activity, I want to be authentically as real as possible. Outwardly, I am functional and able to go to holiday parties, laugh, buy presents, host friends and family for events in my home. And I actually am enjoying myself. Inwardly, there is a space in my heart that aches. It always will be tender.

For a parent who has lost a child, a special holiday like Christmas will forever bring joy and pain. My Christmas’ will never really “fit comfortably” until I am reunited with Leah. At any moment an activity may trigger a memory or thought that creates a grief aftershock.

How can friends and family most help me?

I ask you to celebrate my current family – which always includes remembering Leah.

It is meaningful for you to:

  • Say her name
  • Ask questions about her life
  • Share memories of her that make you laugh or smile
  • Affirm how special she was
  • Acknowledge how heartbreaking it is for me to lose her
  • Show interest in the ways that I honor her memory

By doing one of these things, which may feel slightly uncomfortable for you, you provide incredible comfort and care. Don’t fear, bringing her up doesn’t remind me of something sad; I think about her everyday.

You see, Leah is a permanent part of me. She was forever embedded in my heart since the first moment I knew I was pregnant, heard her heartbeat and felt her move in my belly.

The bond of a mother and child goes deeper than imaginable.

As time passes, I’m increasingly aware of how intensely deep my love is for both of my children. They mean everything to me and my husband.

At this time of year, my love for them gives me a teeny, tiny glimpse into God’s love for me and you. It’s so hard for me to comprehend that He loves me so much more than I love my children – which is the reason that He came to earth. Personally, I do believe He came to earth and He is the ultimate Christmas present.

Christmas is so much more than a cultural holiday; Christmas is a love story  about a Father and His children. A Father who sacrificially and lovingly gives His children the gifts of strength, forgiveness, healing, hope, joy, freedom, peace and ultimately an eternity with Him.

I hope you experience the power of His Shining Love, this Christmas and holiday season.