Lessons I Learned from Mom: A Legacy of Love

On Friday, February 17, my mom passed away. She had been sick for almost two years. Today, Mom rejoices in heaven. All of her pain, gone. She sees her Savior face to face and casts her crown at His feet. The best parts of me are because of the lessons I learned from Mom. I will miss her all the rest of my days, but the things Mom taught me are a legacy of her unconditional love.

All I really need to know about how to live and what to do and how to be I learned from my mom. Wisdom was not found in school, but in the day-to-day examples set by Mom at home. 

Lessons I Learned from Mom

Be faithful to God

Every day, Mom took the Methodist daily devotional, the Upper Room, and her Bible and spent time alone with God. But she didn’t leave the Word in between the pages, she lived the lessons she read there. She prayed for her family and friends. Mom was faithful to go to church her whole life, but she didn’t just sit in the pew. She served however she could: making soup, filling communion cups, being on committees. And she encouraged her sisters, Sandy and Bev to go to church with her. 

Give others the gift of yourself

Mom gave love, kindness, and caring in so many ways. She helped others even if she had something else to do. If someone couldn’t drive, she picked them up and drove them to church or to the market. She baked Christmas cookies and fudge and gave them away. She called people who were alone.

Put your family first

Mom would go without so we kids had whatever we needed. She made sure that there were treats like a candy bar on Sunday afternoon when we stopped at Joe’s Italian Store to get the weekly pasta.  Mom opened her home for Christmas, Easter, birthdays, and holidays so the whole family—grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins—could be together. She and Daddy took my daughters, Kim and Erin, on vacations to Yosemite and Sequoia. When Erin lived in Hemet, she brought Zach and Katie to Mom’s every week to use the washing machine and take the kids swimming. 

Christmas 2013
Let your children be who they are

Mom encouraged each of her three children. She went to every tap dance recital, Girl Scout badge ceremony, mother-daughter tea, and basketball game. To keep me supplied with the books I craved, she drove me to the library every week. But she didn’t freak out when she realized I went into  the bathroom every night after dinner to read and then hid the book in the hamper. She made me stop reading until after the dishes were done though!

Never stop learning and growing as a person

Take risks and venture outside your comfort zone. She traveled with Daddy to the Orient and Europe. When she first moved to Sun Lakes, she took swimming lessons. For twenty years, Mom loved doing aerobics with her friends. At seventy-five, she got a computer and a tablet and kept up with friends and family on Facebook.

Mom and her great granddaughter
Make life-long friends

 Mom and her friend, Marilynn, met in elementary school. In their fifties, they started weekend adventures several times a year. When I was in elementary school, Mom and her friend Alice met for coffee every morning after the housework was done.  Alice moved to New York fifty years ago, but last month, Mom and Alice chatted by phone. Mom looked forward to her Breakfast Club every Friday, and every year on her birthday showed me all the cards she received, “And not one is a duplicate,” she said with amazement. She loved her newest friend, Laura, deeply. Mom was delighted when she got Laura to eat broccoli and fresh cranberries and watch Call the Midwife. And Mom’s life was enriched by Laura’s care.

Never give up on yourself or others, keep trying

Even in pain, Mom made her bed every morning. She tried chair aerobics when she couldn’t do her regular aerobics any more. She liked reading the paper with a cup of coffee while she enjoyed the beautiful view out her kitchen window. “God is always good,” Mom said constantly. “He’s given me a great life.”

My life is better because of Mom and the lessons she taught me. She never said I needed to know these things; this was how she lived.

Her example and her love will always be with me. They are the best parts of me. The lessons I learned from Mom are gifts I will treasure and use forever.

Thank you, Mom. I love you.


Meeting the Need of the Grieving (a comment on the post of Diane Bailey)

My friend, Diane Bailey, wrote a beautiful post, Seeds of Spring in a Season of Fall today. I applaud her sensitivity and compassion.

Knowing what to do and what to say when someone grieves–especially the loss of a child–is hard. Diane acted with love. She didn’t freeze and wonder if she should reach out; she was the hands and feet of Jesus.

When Jesus saw the pain of his friends, Mary and Martha, after the death of Lazarus, he wept right along with them. He didn’t race it to say, “Here I am to save the day,”–even though He did the miraculous and raised Lazarus from the dead. His first response was one of empathy, compassion, and love.

Love shown simply by being with his friends and openly sharing their sorrow.

Diane showed that same love. And there is no greater gift.

You can read more about the grief of losing a child in a previous post I wrote close to the fourth anniversary of my daughter’s passing away New Normal

And how to help others who grieve the loss of a loved one in a post I wrote a year ago called Help for the Grieving.

Just write

The Joy of Hope in the Midst of Sorrow

God provides hope in our every day lives in big and small ways. My grandson, Zachary, turns 15 today. He was born the day after 9/11. As I watch Zach grow into a man of God, I am filled with hope and joy. I first posted this three years ago, but it is still true today. 

Twelve years ago, when I got up to get ready for work, I could hear my daughter, Erin, up early. She was in labor with her first child, my first grandchild. I immediately called for a substitute teacher. I could hardly wait!

But when I turned on the TV to check the weather, I was shocked. A plane had flown into one of the World Trade Center buildings in New York.

Erin went to the hospital, and I went to school to drop off my lesson plans, where I heard even more devastating news: the first tower had imploded and a second tower had been rammed with another plane.

I spent the day, eyes glued to the TV, grieving and angry that my country had been attacked by terrorists. Over and over. The news was more and more grim. It was unbelievable.

And there wasn’t one single thing I could do.

While I watched in shock, disbelief, and dismay, I washed and folded tiny baby clothes for my grandson. And waited . . . and waited . . . and waited . . . for the phone to ring announcing my grandson’s  arrival.

Zachary wasn’t born until the next day, September 12, 2001.

But in the midst of all of the horror of the 9/11 and its aftermath, I held and helped care for this precious bundle of joy created by God.

And Zachary’s birth reminded me of the goodness of God. He has a plan. I don’t always understand it, but I know how the story ends: no more pain, suffering, terror, death. There is hope.

God took care of that through His own Son, Jesus Christ. I have joy in the hope of this promise from Jesus.

John 10: 7-9 (Amplified)

So Jesus said again, I assure you, most solemnly I tell you, that I Myself am the Door for the sheep. All others who came [as such] before Me are thieves and robbers; but the [true] sheep did not listen and obey them. I am the Door. Anyone who enters in through Me will be saved—he will live; he will come in and he will go out [freely], and will find pasture.

Four years ago, on September 13, 2009, my daughter, Kimberly passed away unexpectedly. She had suffered for over ten years with rare complications from juvenile diabetes. Ten days before she died, the last three toes on her left foot were amputated. The doctor waited until the infection was completely eradicated before he did this amputation, hoping that without the toes that dragged on the ground, Kim would be sick less often.

However, the infection wasn’t really gone. My phone rang at 3:30 a.m. with the news that Kim had stopped breathing and was being taken to the hospital by ambulance. A few minutes later, a second call came telling me she had passed away.

As we sat in the hospital for the last time, my son-in-love told what had happened: After a midnight jaunt to the hospital to have a picc-line inserted to deliver antibiotics directly into her blood stream, Kim fell into a restless sleep. Then she said, “NO!” And shortly thereafter, she smiled, relaxed, and stopped breathing.

Knowing Kim, when Jesus came to call her home, she argued with Him. But then, His peace and joy filled her, and He took her by the hand to her true home where she would never know pain or suffering again.

Kim heard the Shepherd’s voice. She walked through the Door and into the pasture. She was no longer here, on earth, but she was living with the Shepherd in a perfect place.

And again, Zachary helped through a time of deep pain and grief. His eighth birthday party was scheduled for that Sunday afternoon at my house. Erin didn’t know what to do. She was in shock and grief too. Her sister was gone.

But Zachary, an eight year old, didn’t really know what that meant. Erin and I filled water balloons and talked and laughed and cried over stories of Kim. We listened to the joy and laughter only young children have when they are engrossed in fun and living abundantly.

As I watched Zachary and his friends, I was reminded of God’s goodness. Of Jesus telling His followers to live abundantly.

John 10: 10 (Amplified)

The thief comes only in order that he may steal and may kill and may destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance—to the full, till it overflows.

Zach and his friends were enjoying life. I couldn’t help but smile with joy at this boy I loved so much. A gift from God.

A promise of His constant Presence, even in times of suffering. The joy of hope.

God never changes. His goodness, His gifts to me are abundant. Over and over, He gives joy and hope even in the midst of days that are horrible.

I am able to enjoy life and have it in abundance—to the full, till it overflows. I have a living, breathing, delightful grandson who reminds me of that every day.

The joy of hope. Hope in Christ. 

Help for the Grieving

Yesterday, a UCLA Bruin football player, Nick Pasquale, a red-shirt freshman who was twenty years old, was struck by a car and killed. My heart aches for his parents, his siblings, his grandparents, and all who loved and cared for him. Their lives will never be the same; there will always be a hole, a wound that will never completely heal.

I know.

The four year anniversary of my daughter, Kimberly’s, passing away is Friday. She was thirty-two. When she passed away, someone else who had lost a child told me two important things: 1) when you have a child and when you lose a child, your life is changed forever and 2) You will learn to walk again, but always with a limp. Those words helped me then, and they help me now.

When you know someone who suffers a loss like that of a child, you may not know what to do. I didn’t. I always dutifully sent a sympathy card, but never knew if that made a difference.

Once I started to receive cards and emails, and even Facebook messages, I realized just how much these seeming tokens truly helped. They brought comfort. I kept those cards in a basket by my chair, and I read them over and over. Although eventually I put them away, with a few other sentimental things I kept from Kim’s short life, every once in a while, I get them out and read them again.

Some people apologized for sending cards two or three weeks after Kim passed away, but those cards were just as valuable to me. I didn’t stop grieving after two or three weeks.

In fact, a couple of people still send me a card telling me they’re thinking of me at this time of year, four years later. Those cards help me through this week of memories that are bitter-sweet. Not really bitter—that would imply I blamed God or resented Kim’s unexpected death. Grief, though, hit harder than I thought it would. Why? Because the sweetness is the joy I had that Kimberly was now in heaven with Jesus. I expected to feel more of the joy and less of the sadness.

I had to return to my regular life only a week after Kim died and the day after her memorial service.

It helped that my principal had talked to my class and they had cards and posters welcoming me back.

It helped that friends would drop by my classroom to hug me or pray with me. It helped when people touched my shoulder or back when I walked by, but didn’t ask constantly how I was doing.

One of the thoughtful things someone did was give me a wind chime. Her note said, “When you hear it, remember Kim and the good things.” Sometimes, I gently touch it, just to hear it ring when I’m thinking of her. I have given several wind chimes to others who have lost children, parents, spouses.

Other people became impatient. They had a time-frame of when I should be “over it.” Get on with life.

Just a note, I will never be over it. Losing Kim, even knowing she’s casting her crown at the feet of Jesus, singing hymns, rejoicing constantly, is not something that will heal and leave a little scar. It is an open wound that scabs over, seeps and oozes, and sometimes feels as though it’s brand-new, open, raw, and infected.

What can you do when someone loses a loved one? Be there. Send a card. After a couple of weeks, send another one. Take a meal and include snacks for all the people who drop by.

And give the grieving family, especially parents of a child, time. Lots and lots of time. More time than you think is normal or healthy or wise.

Be patient. Be kind. Be sympathetic. Pray.

Even if it takes years.

My heart aches for the Pasquale family. I pray they know the peace of Christ because He truly does bring peace and comfort.

For all of you who have lost someone precious to you, I pray you, too, know the peace and comfort of Christ. And you have someone who lets you remember, laugh, and cry. Whenever you need to.