Dear Younger Me,

Dear Younger Me,

I’ve been toying with this post in my head for a while now. Today, July 17th 2017, marks 11 years since we were told that my wonderful mom was not going to make it. Eleven years ago tomorrow, we said goodbye to my mom. July of 2006, I must say, was the worst month of my life so far.

So a few months ago, I heard this song on the radio called “Dear Younger Me” by MercyMe. In the song, the singer is writing a letter to his younger self. In this letter, he’s torn because he loves his life how it is now, but wishes that things could’ve gone smoother to get him to where he is today.

So I started thinking. If I, at my age right now, could write a letter to my 18, almost 19 year old self, during this anniversary of my mom’s death, what would I say to me? What advice would I give the devastated girl who was just told that her mom wasn’t really there anymore? The girl that would end up on the brink of depression and end up being a hypochondriac for years? So that’s what I’m going to do with this post today. I’m going to write 18 year old Rachel a letter. So…here goes nothing.

 

Dear Rachel (age 18),

I know exactly what you are going through at this moment. You don’t know what to think or do and believe me, this is going to go down as one of the worst days of your life. And tomorrow won’t be any better. In fact, it will be worse. Because tomorrow, you are saying goodbye to the woman that not only gave birth to you, but has been your biggest fan since day one. Tomorrow, you will say goodbye to mom. I know, because I’ve been there. You see, I’m you…just 11 years in the future. And yes, that means that you do survive this, somehow.

A piece of you died the second you heard that your mom wasn’t going to make it, I know that. And guess what, that hole will always linger. Even now, there are days when you can’t stop thinking about her and how unfair it is that she is gone. She was only 63, way too young to die. She had so much life ahead of her, and you have so many things in your life to look forward to, that she is going to miss. There will be nights you will just bawl because something big is happening and all you want is to have her here to share the experience with. You’re going to be angry at times, wondering why she had to go.

I know you’re hurting. Even this far removed, the emotions of July 17th, 2006 are very fresh in my memory. It’s frustrating because a part of you wanted to stay optimistic and hope that she could pull through, but the realist part of you knew it was going to be a long shot. Especially when she started having set backs. Plus, you’re so young, you didn’t want to even imagine this as a possibility. I know. I get it. And when they call the house tomorrow to let you, Matt, Mike and Amber know that she has passed, you’ll be inconsolable. Thankfully Matt is next to you to answer the phone and to give you a hug to try to comfort you.

And you have some amazing friends that are willing to drop everything they are doing to come and console you too. Even though most of them will drift apart from you in the years to come, they were exactly who you needed near you at this moment in time. Lean on them. They love you and some of them are pretty upset about mom dying too. Give an extra hug to Ryan. He will need it and you in the years ahead.

I know that it may sound easy for me to tell you all this. And honestly, 11 years ago, I probably wouldn’t have wanted to hear any of this. But I wanted to write you to give you some hope, and advice, for this now uncertain future.

  1. Lean on God and his word. Pray. Pray hard. Your faith is going to help you way more than you realize. Remember that God knows what He’s doing, whether we understand it or not. And we probably won’t know why He takes mom on this side of Heaven. But also remember that your mom knew where she was heading after she died. She’s going to be up in Heaven, greeted by all the ones who have gone before, and she’ll be watching you. I have no doubt in my mind that mom watches out for all of us. She has the best seat in the house, after all.
  2. Lean on your family. They know better than anyone else what you are going through, because they’re going through it with you. Some of you will handle this better than others and that’s why you have to all stick together. Be there when someone wants to talk. Spend more time together. You will never regret it. And guess what. You and dad are going to become much closer, and you will love that. He needs you guys now more than ever.
  3. Lean on your friends. Yes, I know I said some of them won’t end up sticking around for the long haul, but some of the do. And even the ones that don’t, love you very much in this current season of your lives. It doesn’t matter that some of them won’t be close with you in the future. What matters is the here and now. You have amazing friends right now and they will take care of you.
  4. Know that this first year is going to be hard. Every first holiday without her is going to suck. There’s no other way to put it. All the memories and traditions she would partake in, they won’t be the same. It’s hard. But with every new holiday, a new normal sets in. Every holiday will get easier as times goes on, but the void will always be there. But the holidays won’t always be bittersweet. They will become happier again, I promise.
  5. Every new milestone is going to hurt more and more. Especially since you’re the youngest in the family. It will hurt when you graduate college (and thanks to dad, you will graduate college). It will hurt when you get your first teaching job. It will definitely hurt when you get married and even more so when you have your first baby. You will feel like you’ve been cheated. Even today, I feel that way. Sadly, life isn’t always fair. You’re allowed to be angry and you’re allowed to be upset and to feel cheated. Eighteen years isn’t nearly enough time with mom. But try your best to stay strong. Your family needs you to stay strong too.
  6. Know that your life is turning out really great. As I get ready to turn 30 in just over three weeks, I can safely say that things in our life haven’t always turned out the way I expected them to. But I do believe that things in our life have turned out the way they were supposed to. And just know, you are so happy with your life. At almost 30, you have a wonderful husband, and a beautiful 17 month old girl (named after mom and your husband’s mom, who also passed away). You and our siblings are still extremely close and you and dad are partners in crime. Your best friends are beyond amazing and love you like crazy. And even though mom isn’t here to witness all the amazing times, I do believe that she is watching you. She’ll see all the crazy stuff you do and she’ll probably get a kick out of it. You will always have the memories of mom and a lot of great stories to remember her by. And guess what, she wouldn’t want you upset all the time. You will fight this a little bit, almost being diagnosed with depression. As sad as tomorrow will be for you, you have such an amazing future ahead. And guess what? Mom is going to be watching from the best seat in the house.

Keep your head up. Know that mom loves you so much. And live a life to make her proud. Stay strong in your faith and know that tomorrow isn’t “good-bye” forever. It’s just a really long “see you later”.

You’re stronger than you realize. And you will get through this.

Sincerely,

Rachel (age 29)

A Story About my Dad and a Request

A Story About my Dad and a Request

Tonight I’m going to start out with a story and then end with a prayer request for tomorrow.

My story is about my wonderful dad.

Back in 2012, unknown to all of us siblings, my dad started to have signs and symptoms of an underlying heart problem. These symptoms, namely his chest tightening up when he overexerted himself, went on for about six months.

And then on August 20th, 2012, I received the scariest phone call from my dad.

My husband and I had literally just pulled onto our road from an evening out together bowling. He had wanted to play one more game, but I was playing so terribly and I’m a sore loser, so I wanted to go home. Little did I know what the rest of my night would hold.

We pulled onto our road and my phone rang. It was my dad. Honestly, I was thrown off because it was pretty late for him to be calling me. I assumed he was going to tell me something about my aunt, his sister, who was in bad health. So what he ended up saying to me nearly killed me.

He said “I need you to come and drive me to the hospital. My chest is feeling tight and usually it goes away but tonight it’s not going away.”

My heart stopped.

We stopped by the house long enough for me to get my car and me and my husband took off towards my dad’s. My sister called me as I was about to pull onto his road. I remember her telling me, “Rachel, don’t mess around. If he looks bad, call 911.”

We pulled in his driveway and I raced up to the door, where he greeted me.

Instead of having him get into my car, I asked, “Dad, do you think I should call an ambulance?”

He gave me a small, nervous smile and said, “Yeah.”

I called for the ambulance and waited until they came and got my dad. I explained to them his symptoms and that heart problems run in his family. The man who drove the ambulance knew my dad and he promised me that he would be alright, that they were just gonna check him out up at the hospital.

After the ambulance left, we did too and made our way to the hospital, which was about 20 minutes away. All of my siblings met us up there and we were given the news.

Just as my mom had six years before, my dad had a heart attack. The hospital here in Clinton County didn’t have the means to take care of him, so they planned on air caring him to Christ Hospital in Cincinnati, just like my mom.

We were allowed to see him before they put him in the helicopter. Weirdly enough, he seemed normal. They were asking him questions and he was answering them like nothing was wrong. We were so shocked that he seemed okay, but wasn’t.

We left to head down to Christ, which was about an hour drive. When we got there, we waited until they got him check in and settled. They ran some tests on him and then brought all of us in his hospital room to give us the diagnosis.

He did have a heart attack. He had some sort of heart disease. And eventually, they wanted to do open heart surgery to clean out his arteries. They didn’t want to do it too soon because he had a bunch of blood thinner in his system. Once we heard that, we all decided to go home and rest, and then come back to see him in the morning.

But a God thing happened. My brother and his wife needed help with their car’s tires and called me and my husband to help. They were in a questionable part of town and we wanted to get them out of there as soon as possible. While we were there, my oldest niece called me. Mind you, it’s about 2:30am on the 21st at this point. She informed me, “They decided that the blockage is so severe in his main artery, 90% blockage, that they want to do surgery first thing in the morning. So if you want to see him before surgery, you need to be here at 6am.”

My sister-in-law happens to be a nurse at Christ Hospital. So we followed her and my brother back to the hospital and she got us a hospital room to share for the next few hours. I remember not getting any sleep in those hours.

We returned to my dad’s room hours later and he looked nervous. I could tell. We had gone through all we did with mom, it was hard to not compare his story with hers.

His triple by-pass took about five hours, but he got through it fine. The actual heart attack caused no damage to his heart, which was a huge blessing. He would have gone home sooner than he did, but his stomach gave him problems. Totally not relevant right now.

So that’s my dad’s story. I’ll never forget calling the ambulance for him. So many things about those weeks ahead, things he doesn’t remember and I’ve had to remind him about. He doesn’t remember much, and I’m glad.

But now, five years later, he is starting to have similar signs and symptoms as he did in 2012. He informed my sister initially, who then told me. When he mows his grass, he’ll feel that tightness in his chest again. He also feels it from time to time when he walks too fast, just as he did those years ago. Unlike last time, where he didn’t tell us until it was too late, he told us.

We talked him into getting an appointment with his cardiologist, which is for tomorrow (May 10th). Maddie and I will be taking him down to Christ Hospital for his 11:45 appointment tomorrow. I know he’s nervous, as am I and I know all of our family is nervous. So this is where my prayer request comes in.

Pray for my dad. Pray that they can figure out what is causing this problem and that they can easily fix it. Or pray that it’s nothing serious and nothing we need to worry about. I don’t think that is the case, and I’d honestly rather them find something than to say they didn’t find anything wrong, only to have something bad happen in the future. Pray for all of us. Pray for wisdom for the doctor. Pray for my nerves as I sit with him and listen to what the doctor thinks.

A month or so ago, my dad told me that he wants to be here (on earth) when Maddie graduates high school. She’s only one year old. He’s 75, going on 76 in September. He’s got quite a few more years to go. So pray that we can get him back to 100% and that he can be here in 2034 when she will graduate high school.

Sometimes It’s a God Thing

Sometimes It’s a God Thing

Three times now.

Three separate occasions, I’ve had this happen to me. And I can only describe it as a “God Thing”.

Three times now, inexplicably, I’ve happened to be in the right place at the right time to be there for someone that really needed me. And the circumstances are odd.

The first time was back in 2005. My maternal grandmother had just move in with us the previous month. I was in my freshman year is college and this particular morning, my first class ended very early. Being a commuter, I decided to just drive home for a few hours before my next class. Normally, I would be on campus until at least 2pm on that day without going home. But this day, I got home right before 9:30. My mom informed me as I came in that my grandma was still asleep but that she was going to wake her up here shortly. I went in my room and got on my computer, and it wasn’t five minutes later that I heard my mom crying to my dad. She had gone in to wake up my grandma and my grandma had passed away overnight. Again, any normal day, I would have still been on campus. But because my one class ended early, I made the choice to go home, without knowing how much my mom would need me there to help comfort her. I always thought that was just a coincidence.

(my parents and I, senior year of HS 2004)

The second instance was in 2012. My husband and I decided to go bowling one evening. We had already played three games and Kenneth asked me if we could play one more. I was getting frustrated because I wasn’t bowling well, so I told him that I wanted to go home. We had just pulled onto our road when my dad called me. He wanted me to drive him to the hospital because he was having tightness in his chest that wouldn’t go away. I live five minutes away from my dad. So we got my car and raced to my dad’s, where I would end up calling an ambulance, suggested by my dad, and he would find out on the way to the hospital that he was having a heart attack. Normally, my brothers would have been home with dad, but one of them was working and the other was at a sports meeting. I could have easily told Ken we could play one more game of bowling, but I didn’t. I chose to go back home and we made it just in time for dad to call me to help him. Again, a little odd.

(my dad and i at my wedding, 2011)
The last instance happened this morning, actually. Maddie has recently just started sleeping in her crib, but is known to still wake up a few times throughout the night. I woke up this morning around 3:15, and checked the video monitor. I expected Maddie to be awake, but she was actually still fast asleep. I looked at the time and decided to use the bathroom before I went back to sleep. As I got back into bed, I checked my phone one more time to see that I had received three texts from my niece Amber. Amber is only 4 years younger than me and we are like sisters. So I read my texts. Her grandpa on her mom’s side of the family passed away at 3:03 this morning. His health had been poor for a while. He had been in hospice care at his home for a little while now. It wasn’t unexpected, but I knew my niece was devastated. Maddie didn’t wake me up at 3:15. I woke up for no real reason. But I was awake when Amber needed me. She needed her “sister” to know what happened and to be there to comfort her. Again, very random moment.

(Me and my niece Amber, a few years ago)

I don’t know about all of you, but I’m about certain that all three of these moments are what I call a “God Thing”. Nothing can explain any of these experiences. What were the odds that I would happen to be available for all three occasions? I can’t explain it. I don’t even want to try. I just know that God is always there for me and He is always there for His children. The people involved in all of these situations needed me and somehow I was there to be there for them. When I think about this, it’s enough to give me chills.

Can anyone else relate?? I would love to hear some similar stories!!

Lessons Learned from “It’s a Wonderful Life”

Lessons Learned from “It’s a Wonderful Life”

Merry Christmas to everyone!! I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday! We were very blessed and had a fantastic Christmas!

As I sit here in my bed, my 10 month old baby beside me, waiting for her to wake up, my mind starts to wander. Last night, as I went to bed, I turned on my favorite Christmas movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life”. It’s safe to say that I get around to watching it at least once during the holidays, sometimes more. As I watched it, I started to think about all the great themes and lessons that can be learned from watching the movie. Here’s some that I came up with.

  1. Prayer works! As soon as the movie starts, you hear random characters praying for the main character, George Bailey. His wife, Mary had called everyone they knew and asked for prayer for her husband, who she knew was in some kind of trouble. All the prayers lead to Clarence, an angel from Heaven attempting to gain his wings, to come to earth to save George from killing himself and to show him that he is an important person to a lot of people in the world.
  2. Even though prayer does work, sometimes we don’t get the answer we’re wanting. At one point in the movie, George is at the bar and just about to lose his mind. As he sits there, he prays that God show him the way, and instead of getting a positive answer, he ends up getting punched in the face by the husband of one of George’s kids’ teachers. He had no hope to begin with and when that happened, it drove him to go to the bridge where he contemplates killing himself and where he meets Clarence.
  3. Sometimes God lets you go through a deep valley before you see something positive happen. George was about as far gone as a person could be. God knew what was going to happen to the money that Uncle Billy misplaced, but He also knew that George needed to see what life would have been like without him to appreciate what he did have. So God let all the bad things happen to George so he could learn from all of it and appreciate all he did have.
  4. Being too nice and selfless can pay off in the end. At least it did for George. That poor guy couldn’t catch a break! He lost his hearing in one ear when he got sick after saving his younger brother, who had fallen through an icy pond. He kept his mouth shut about the druggist who accidentally put poison in the capsules instead of the medicine. He stayed in town instead of going to college when his dad died so he could run the Building and Loan. The list goes on and on. But when he needed people there to help him, they came from all over and gave willing. They loved George and knew that he would help them if they needed it.
  5. Each man’s life touches so many other lives, more than anyone realizes. When George got to see what life would have been like if he had never been born, he got a huge shock. His brother, the same one he saved from the icy water, died in this reality because George wasn’t there to save him. The druggist would have been thrown in jail for accidenly putting the poison in the capsules. His wife would have ended up an old maid. The list is endless. Seeing this alternate reality, George realized how important he really was.

What’s your favorite Christmas movie? What’s your opinion of “It’s a Wonderful Life”? Comment and let me know!! 

16 Bible Verses for an Anxious Heart

16 Bible Verses for an Anxious Heart

The other day, I shared the story of my mom passing away. I shared it for several reasons. I want people that read my blog to know me and know why I am the person I am today. I also hope that by acknowledging that it happened and talking about my struggle with it, that it may give hope to someone else that may be dealing with something similar. Because of those reasons, I felt that I needed to write this blog and talk about what happened after losing my mom.

Not long after I had lost my mom, I started having trouble catching my breath every now and then. This concerned me a lot because that was the only symptom that my mom had of her heart attack initially. Eventually I decided that I really needed to go to the doctor and get checked out. What he diagnosed me with, I’ll admit, I didn’t expect.

He informed me that I was on the brink of having depression and anxiety. My one symptom was actually a symptom of anxiety and nothing to do with my heart. Instead of putting me on medication, which he really didn’t think I needed, he told me I should start exercising at least 3 times a week for 30 minutes. I was happy enough that it wasn’t anything heart related, but I did start working out a little bit more, which helped me get better.

Another thing that always helps me when I’m a bit anxious is reading God’s word and reading what He has to say about fear and anxiety. So today, I’m going to post 16 verses that I personally love dealing with the topic of fear and anxiety.

  1. 1 Peter 5:7 – Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.
  2. Isaiah 41:10 – Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.
  3. Philippians 4:6-7 – Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passerby all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
  4. John 14:27 – Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.
  5. 2 Timothy 1:7 – For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
  6. Psalm 27:1 – The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
  7. Psalm 23:4 – Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
  8. Joshua 1:9 – Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.
  9. Psalm 118:6-7 – The Lord is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me? The Lord taketh my part with them that help me: therefore shall I see my desire upon them that hate me.
  10. Mark 4:39-40 – And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. And he said unto them, Why are he so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?
  11. Psalm 34:4 – I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.
  12. Deuteronomy 3:22 – Ye shall not fear them: for the Lord your God he shall fight for you.
  13. Romans 8:38-39 – For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
  14. Zephaniah 3:17 – The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing.
  15. John 16:33 – These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.
  16. Psalm 73:26 – My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.

Those are just a few of many great verses to help with anxiety! Did I forget your favorite?? Comment and tell me what your favorite verse is!

Losing a Parent – What I Learned

Losing a Parent – What I Learned

This will probably be the hardest post I ever write but it’s the post that has been on my heart lately. I’m going to warn you now, this is going to get emotional. This post has been a work in progress for me for the past 10 years. In this post, I’m going to tell the story of my mom’s passing and what I’ve learned from it these last 10 years.

My mom was a wonderful woman. She was my biggest fan and someone I always knew that I could count on no matter what. She would fight battles for me and be there to just listen if I needed her to. She loved all six of us kids and definitely loved my dad. I was a mommy’s girl, which made all of this THAT much harder for me.

I was about a month away from turning 19 when she had her heart attack. She smoked the majority of her life and it was a big factor in her heart attack. On July 2nd, 2006, my mom woke up that morning and had trouble catching her breath. My dad decided that she needed to go to the hospital, so he drove her to the nearest one, which is about 25 minutes away from the house. When they arrived, they realized that my mom was having a heart attack. They decided to air-care her to Christ Hospital down in Cincinnati because they were an excellent heart hospital. They told my dad that it was just a minor heart attack, and she would probably be able to come home the next day. While that was taking place, my dad came back home, woke me up and told me what was going on. My oldest brother and his family were coming by to pick me and my dad up to head down to the hospital. I was hysterical. I never thought anything would happen to my mom. Once all of us siblings were in the loop, we all made our way to the hospital from wherever we were. By the time we arrived, a nurse came out of a room saying that they weren’t ready for us because my mom had just had a massive heart attack. I started bawling again and I remember hugging my niece Amber (who is only 4 years younger than me). We finally were able to talk to someone and they informed us that my mom had shot a clot through her heart, making a hole. The only way to possibly save her was to perform surgery to repair the damage done, but there wasn’t a guarantee that she would even make it through this surgery. It was really a no-brainer. My dad had them go through with the surgery, which ended up being over five hours long. Amazingly enough, she made it through the surgery and they repaired the damage, but they told us that the first 72 hours were critical. None of us wanted to have hope but it was hard not to. The next day (because that ALL took place on July 2nd), we went to visit my mom and she was actually awake. She had a breathing tube down her throat, so she couldn’t speak, but she was aware. She was asked if she knew who she was, what year it was, and how many kids she had. My oldest brother said she only had five, to which she adamantly shook her head ‘no’. I was so excited that she was awake and it seemed like, to me, that we were heading in the right direction. Before we left to go home that day, I told mom that we all loved her. She mouthed back “I love you too”.

The next day, they put her in a medically induced coma for several reasons. She apparently kept trying to pull her breathing tube out, which wasn’t good, and they wanted her body to relax so it could continue to heal itself. The next twelve days were kind of a blur. Things would look good and then things would look bad. She was still in her coma and because of that, they had to do things to help her circulation. One thing I remember is they brought in a type of bed that would rotate from side to side to keep her from getting bed sores. It was an odd contraption.

But on July 17th, the doctor sat down with my dad and informed him that my mom wasn’t going to make it. The doctor told my dad that she wasn’t really there anymore and that we could keep her on life support if we chose, but that nothing would get better. My dad was devastated, but knew what the right thing to do was. So the next day, with several family members by his side, he let my mom go. She passed away at 4:07pm on July 18th. She was 63 years old. The heart attack wasn’t even what ended up killing her. Because my mom was a smoker, she had developed chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Her lungs weren’t strong enough and her organs just started shutting down one by one. Her kidneys were next. So ultimately, she died from the infections due to the heart attack.

Okay…so now that I may have possibly made all of you cry, I’ll go on to the main point of this post.

I honestly didn’t know how to deal with losing a parent, or anyone really, at the age of 18. My mom was the closest person to me to pass away at that point and I, thankfully, had a friend of mine that had lost her mom at an even younger age that could help me through it. But it wasn’t easy. So here are 8 things that I learned from losing my mom.

  1. God knew what He was doing. I know that sounds insane of me, but just hear me out. I prayed. I prayed any chance I could for God to heal my mom. But as the days went on, and I could tell that things weren’t going great, I changed my prayer. I wanted my mom to live, but I also didn’t want her to suffer. Toward the end, she had lost circulation in her hands and feet. If she had survived, she would have had them amputated. She would have spent the rest of her life in a wheelchair, which I knew she would have hated. So, when I noticed that things were getting back, I prayed that God’s will be done. I wanted my mom to stay with me, but if God wanted her to be with Him in Heaven, that was okay too. And when we got the call that she had passed away, I bawled like a baby into my brother Matt’s shoulder. I was completely devastated. But I never questioned God. I knew that my mom would have been utterly miserable if she would have been put in a wheelchair for the rest of her life. So I think God knew what was best for her.
  2. You lean on the people that are closest to you more than ever. I had friends who were still in high school, going through band camp, who dropped everything to be at my mom’s funeral, with the band director allowing them to leave and come back. One of my best friends was celebrating her birthday and once they all found out that my mom had passed away, they all left the party (birthday girl included) to come and comfort me. All of us siblings leaned on each other for support. Two of my brothers were still living at home with me and dad, and we spent a lot of time together after that. Speaking of my dad, my relationship with him grew stronger too. To this day, I don’t know what I would have done without my dad. He has become one of my favorite people in the whole world and I’m so grateful that we grew closer.
  3. The first year is the worst. The first full year without mom was HORRIBLE. Every holiday was hard to get through. My oldest niece didn’t even want to celebrate her birthday that year. I missed quite a bit of class during my second year of college because I was just a mess. Every day that year was just as hard as the next. I honestly didn’t know if it would ever get better (spoiler alert: it does).
  4. Every major milestone in the family is bittersweet. Since my mom has been gone, I have graduated college, got married and now I have my first child. My oldest niece has also gotten married. Another niece of mine graduated college. One of my brothers is going to graduate college this coming year. And EVERY milestone, it’s hard to not wish mom were here. When I graduated college, my entire family was there to witness it. When they declared us graduates of the class of 2009, I cried. Partly because I was so happy to be done with college, but mostly because I felt mom should have been there.
  5. People will say that they understand what you’re going through. Unless they lost a parent EXACTLY the same way you lost yours, they really don’t. My brother had a friend who lost his mom to cancer. He told me that he could sympathize but not empathize. He knew what it was like to lose a parent, but not how it felt to lose a parent to cancer. I had a friend who compared me losing my mom to his losing his grandma. Again, he understood what it was like to lose a family member, but he didn’t lose his mom. No one completely understands what you’re going through unless they have gone through the same exact thing.
  6. It doesn’t necessarily become easier to deal with, but your normal changes. You become used to not having them there, which makes it easier to handle, but the pain never really goes away. Not completely. There are times I still cry, missing my mom that much. When I found out I was pregnant with Maddie, it made me happy but sad at the same time because Maddie would never know my mom, or Ken’s mom for that matter. Holidays are still bittersweet, but we’re used to the new normal, and that makes things easier, but never better.
  7. Take a lot of pictures. Do a family picture. We NEVER did that. We rarely took pictures and my mom HATED being photographed. Because of that, we don’t have many pictures to remember her by. I am almost obsessive about getting pictures of our little family. If, God forbid, something happens to one of us, we will have pictures to look back at.
  8. Do NOT take anyone for granted. We didn’t wake up back in 2006 thinking it would be the last time we saw mom. My husband didn’t realize that when he left the house back in 2009, that it would be the last time he saw his mom alive. You just NEVER know. I could have lost my dad back in 2012 when he had his heart attack, but thank God I didn’t. But after his heart attack, I made it a point to visit him more often. Even to this day, I visit him at least three nights a week and see him on Sunday after church for lunch. This is even more important now that Maddie is here. She LOVES her grandpa and it’s important to me that she has a relationship with both of her grandpas. But we don’t know what tomorrow has in store. So don’t hold grudges, practice forgiveness and grace, and make sure people know that you love them. Because you just never know.

I promise that my post tomorrow won’t be this sad, but I’ve really had this on my heart for the past few months and really wanted to get it out. Comments? Anything to add? Comment below!