Letting Go

It’s been three years since our son, Chad, passed away.

Just when I think I’ve got a handle on this thing called grief, I hear a song on the radio like Tim McGraw singing “I Like It, I Love It” which was one of Chad’s favorites, or I see a headline post on Facebook that Dale Earnhardt, Jr. will be starting in 2nd place at Daytona this year, and my heart just aches to hear Chad singing along with Tim or asking for the hundredth time on Sunday afternoon “Where’s Junior?”.

Like I’ve said so many times, “It doesn’t get better – It get’s different”.  There are many people in my life now who don’t even know I have a son.  I used to feel compelled to tell others I’d meet that my son died, not to get sympathy or attention, but just to mention his name so they knew that he existed, and that I was still his mom.

I believe that the hardest part of losing a child is not the horrific part at the beginning when you’re in shock and can’t believe it’s real, when you think you’re going to wake up from this nightmare and they will be safe and sound down the hall in their bedroom.  No, I think the hardest part for me was letting go.

I’ve heard it said that we need to “hold what we love with open hands”, and that makes a lot of sense to me now.  When we hold onto our children so tightly and believe that they actually belong to us,  it just makes it that much harder to let them go.  They are a gift from God.  We don’t own them.  They are just being loaned to us for however long God allows them to live on this earth.

The first year Chad was gone was so terribly difficult.  Shock, disbelief, anger, guilt, the whole gamut of emotions, just to name a few.  Walking in the valley of the shadow of death, trying to make sense of it all when it made no sense.  In the beginning, I’d go to his room and sit on his bed surrounded by his things and it actually comforted me to be there. The day came at the end of that first year when I realized I was waiting for him to come home, so I finally went thru his things and lovingly stored them away.

The second year, I kept thinking would be easier, but somehow it was almost harder.  For everyone else who knew him, besides my husband, daughter, and I, life had gone on, as it should for them.  We were still missing a huge part of our lives, but he had just become a pleasant memory to them.  Not that others didn’t care about our grief.  They just could not comprehend it, and their lives had not changed as ours had.

During that second year is when I realized I had to let him go.  I’d been unconsciously holding on to him trying to keep from leaving him in the past, and I could not “live forward” until I released him to God.  When I was able to let go and trust God with Chad’s spirit and think of him as part of my future in Heaven, I was able to at last find peace.

I still miss him so much and think of him daily, especially during the holidays or when I hear the big engines revving up on TV for another NASCAR race.  I’m finding with each passing year that I’m learning to smile a little more with each memory.  Instead of wiping the tears away, I’ll laugh and tell someone about the funny things he’d say and do, and that keeps him forever alive in my heart.

For those of you who have lost a child, no matter their age, because they are always children to us, I just want to say – “Talk about them. Celebrate their life.  Share their memory with others.  Holding on won’t bring them back and will only bring you more pain.  Let your heart heal and be at peace.  Learn to laugh again, as they are.  God’s got this, so gently open your hands and let them go!”

Grandma Shirley

breast_cancer_i_miss_my_mother_in_law_postcard-rd9d4e09332ab46cd9e23bd522d9115fa_vgbaq_8byvr_324

My kids called her Grandma Shirley,
She always sang the birthday song
And she never missed their parties,
As she made us all sing along
She had a funny way about her,
But she filled my life with joy
I married her oldest son,
One of three she raised from a boy
She had a colorful language,
There’s no doubt,
And she’d tell you flat out
What it was all about!
She could put on a tough front,
But truth be told,
She loved her husband and family
With a heart that was purest gold.
She always called me “daughter”, not “in-law”,
From the first day til the last.
She never worried about the future,
But she loved talking about the past.
Telling the stories of her girls and boys
And remembering every pet that they had
I saw her get angry over something done wrong,
But I never saw her sad.
Today, I miss her voice and her smile,
And that big hug she always gave.
The laughter that was hers alone
Has followed her to the grave.
Although her body is no longer here,
In her family, her spirit lives on
I’ll bet she’s laughing now,
As she dances around Heaven’s throne!
I’m so grateful for the years that I knew her
And for the deep friendship we shared
Give my boy a hug, Grandma Shirley,
And keep Heaven rocking til I get there!

– Debbie Dovel
6/14/16

Holding On and Letting Go

Murl & Shirley

(My mother & father-in-law, Murl & Shirley Dovel, taken on Easter – March 27, 2016)

Gathered round her bedside
As she valiantly fights to stay,
Knowing it’s time for her to go,
Not knowing what to say

Holding on to the memory
Of the woman she once was
Remembering her laughter,
And a life full of love

Letting go of the bad times,
The cancer and so much pain
Watching her slowly leave us
As tears fall like rain

Seeing the love on his face
For his wife of 61 years
As he tells her it’s okay to go,
There’s nothing now to fear

Although we hate to see her leave
And we’ll miss her in every way
We know God has a plan
And we’ll follow her one day

This world will be a little darker
Without the sunshine of her smile
We’ll miss the sound of her laughter
Being sad just wasn’t her style

One day we’ll all be together
In our home beyond the skies
As God calls us one by one
To that land where the soul never dies

We’ll cry and our hearts will grieve
Because we’ve lost someone special and dear
But don’t think she’s gone forever
Just because you don’t see her here

She’s walking and talking with Chad,
And the rest of the family there
Free from this world of sorrow
With no more worries or cares

Holding on to precious memories
Of a wonderful mother, grandma, & friend
We don’t say “good-bye”, just “see ya later”
Cause we know we’ll be together again.
By Debbie Dovel
In memory of my mother-in-law, Shirley Dovel, who passed away at the age of 80 after a long fight with cancer on our 35th wedding anniversary, Monday, May 30, 2016

Finally, Spring!

It’s April, and Spring has finally arrived in Iowa!  Well, at least it seems like it’s here to stay.  You just never know here in the Midwest.  A late freeze could sweep down overnight from the North and take out all the early flowers and the farmer’s crops.  Praying the warmer days are here to stay!

The change of seasons always makes me melancholy in the beginning.  Not that I’m sad to see the end of Winter!  It just brings back memories of Springs in the past and things we used to do that we don’t anymore.  A turkey gobbled across the road down by the creek the other morning, and I remembered how Chad loved to hear them.  He was always so excited for Turkey Season here in Iowa every April.  I think he loved it best because he could HEAR the turkeys he hunted.  He didn’t have to see them.  He’d come home from hunting with his dad to tell me about their latest adventure and the sounds he’d heard from the gobblers and hens, as his dad used his turkey call to bring a big Tom in close enough for Chad to get a shot.  When he bagged one each year, of course we had to take lots of pictures and also weigh it and measure the beard and spurs to see if he’d got a bigger one than his dad got.

Another thing I miss are the little things Chad noticed that I didn’t until he’d mention them.  Like when I’d push him out to meet his bus in his wheelchair on calm Spring mornings, he’d say “birds, Mom, hear the birds!”  Sure enough, a Meadowlark or some other songbird would be trilling away, and my mind had been so busy thinking about other things that I’d not even noticed.  He loved to sit out on the front deck and listen to the birds and the cars going by.  He get so excited when a neighbor would see him and honk as they passed our house.  I’d see him waving long after they’d gone on around the bend.

One neighbor, who was also the head cook at Chad’s high school and always talked to him when he came thru the lunch line, told Chad that she’d heard heard him playing his Tim McGraw CD on the deck one quiet afternoon when she was outside & the sound drifted to her house a half mile south of ours.  He told her he heard her husband laughing out on their patio the same day.  I love to hear stories about my son, especially now over two years after his death.  It confirms his life and the many people’s lives he touched in the 24 years he lived on this earth.  Imagine the stories he’ll be telling me about Heaven one day!

Spring is the season of new birth, new beginnings, and it gives me hope for a time when I will be with my son again.  I believe that in Heaven, it’s perpetual Spring, because nothing ages there.  It’s always fresh and new.  I can just picture Chad there now, no longer confined to a wheelchair, but running thru fields of wildflowers and fishing from crystal lakes; not just hearing the beautiful sounds of the many birds and the rest of nature, but seeing again, and oh, what beauty to behold!  If he could talk to me, I’m sure he wouldn’t be able to find the words to tell me what he’s now seeing.

Yet, even with knowing he’s there, happy and healthy, I still miss him so.  I miss his big smile and his quirky sense of humor; that amazing laugh and “don’t quit” attitude.  I see  him as a little boy before Batten’s Disease took so much away, how he was constantly on the run, talking incessantly, and bugging his sister to play with him.  Oh, how I’d love to live those crazy childhood days of theirs all over again, knowing now how fast they fly by!

Spring also brought me a wonderful gift a year ago, actually on March 11, 2015, just a little early for spring, more like late winter, I guess.  She came all wrapped in pink, and they named her Cassidy.  “Cassie” or “Cass” most of the time, and such an adorable little bundle of joy, making me a proud grandma and easing the pain of grief some.  She looks so much like her daddy, but I can see our daughter in her also, and every now and then, that sweet smile of her Uncle Chad.  She definitely inherited some of his personality, which is only fitting, I suppose, since I’m sure he helped God pick her out.

Happy Spring, everyone!

Winter

John Deere & snowman

Winter is such a sad time of year.
Everything is black and white, or shades of gray and brown, with no bright color in sight.
Once in awhile when it snows and the sun comes out, we’ll see that brilliant blue sky, and everything looks clean and pristine with a mantel of sparkling white covering all the ugliness for a day or so.
Then it turns bleak again, as the snow melts into the hard ground, and gray slush splashes across the roads as the cars drive by.
It’s easy to get depressed this time of year and feel that life is a dreary succession of boring days, waiting for spring to arrive.
We have to look at it as a time of rest, rest for nature and for ourselves, if we will just slow down and stop living at breakneck speed.
Turn off the alarm and enjoy sleeping in on Saturday mornings.
Find a good book to read by the fire on Sunday afternoons.
Rent that movie you’ve been wanting to see, and stay up late watching it with your family and a big bowl of popcorn.
Go visit someone you’ve been meaning to for far too long.
Take your dog for a walk and feel the brisk winter air awakening your senses.
Call an old classmate or a friend you haven’t seen in years and catch up on one another’s lives.
Drop in at the local café to listen to the latest small town good-natured gossip over a cup of coffee.
Go to a local church and sing praises to our Creator, as you feel His spirit move you with love for your fellow man.
Maybe then we will find that it’s not the season or the weather that makes us blue, it’s a lack of connection to God and the people around us.
When we feel isolated, no matter what time of year, everything seems much worse than it is..
We have to reach out to our Maker, our families, and the people we share this space on earth with.
That’s what warms our hearts and takes away the cold dreariness of Winter.
Before we know it, Spring will arrive with it’s longer days and busier schedules, but try to keep the closeness you find in this slower season.
For none of us knows the number of days we have nor how long we will be blessed with our loved ones.
Make memories now, no matter the season, for that is what will get us thru the long winters of our lives here on the back roads.

–Debbie Dovel

 

God is Good All the Time

Dayne

I sat in a church pew this past week and read these words on banners hung above the pulpit, “God is good all the time”, while I watched that church fill with community members from the surrounding area as they came together in prayer for a local young man who is fighting a battle for his life. As we sang, read scriptures, and prayed, we all thought of times in our own lives when we were the ones standing in the need of prayer. Tragedies bring people from all walks of life to their knees, especially when it’s one of our children in need.
In a small rural community such as ours, we know these kids. We’ve seen their birth announcements, read their letters to Santa in the paper, heard them sing at school concerts, cheered for them in sports, and finally watched them walk down the aisle to receive their diplomas along with our own children as they ventured out into the world.
When we hear that they’ve had an accident or been diagnosed with some terrible disease, our hearts ache for the parents as we feel their pain and pray for God’s healing and for strength to get them through these difficult days.
We have community prayer services, soup suppers, and benefits to raise money for the family’s unexpected expenses. We text, email, watch for posts on Facebook and Caring Bridge to learn the latest news, as we silently pray throughout the day for it to be good.
We call our own children whether they live around the corner or miles away, just to tell them we love them, and if we still have kids at home, we may hug them a little longer before they walk out the door on their way to school, cherishing their healthy bodies and asking God to bring them safely home.
In today’s world, many of us feel like we are just a number to our government, our employers, and the people we do business with. I thank God that we live in a community where we are more than that, where a warm hand reaches out to clasp our own or someone gives us a hug when we so desperately need one. Where a neighbor shows up at the back door with a casserole to make sure you have a hot meal when you were just too tired to cook, or a simple card comes in the mail when you have almost lost hope that lifts your spirits and helps you hold on for one more day.
These are all precious things that some people in big cities never experience; the closeness and kinship that comes from facing life together here on the back roads where “God is good all the time”. Even when we don’t understand His plan, we have to trust His hand in whatever happens in our lives.
Please continue to keep Dayne Sturm and his family in your prayers, and if you can, please come to the Soup Supper being held on Sunday evening, Jan. 24th, from 4:30 – 6:30 p.m. At the Hamburg United Methodist Church, 1200 Park St., Hamburg, IA. A Free Will donation will be taken to benefit the Sturm family.
– Debbie Dovel

 

Holiday Season Once More

turkeys

October started it all off with Halloween, and we saw the decorations and candy in the stores before school had barely started. It used to be Halloween was just for kids, except for the popcorn balls and stuff we got that we didn’t like and gave to our parents, or they just took it when we weren’t looking! Remember those awful plastic masks with the elastic string to hold it on we used to wear? They were so hot, you felt like you were melting underneath them, but we’d do it all again the next year, just to get those little Snickers and Milky Ways, wouldn’t we? Things have changed a lot since then. The costumes are more comfortable, and most kids have a different one every year. I wore that plastic Princess mask every Halloween and was happy to have it. Someone who was out with their child trick-or-treating Saturday night told me they saw more adults in costumes on the street than kids! Oh, I think it’s a cute thing to dress up with your little ones, as I’m sure they get a kick out of seeing Mom & Dad wearing a costume, but have you seen some of the costumes? Adults aren’t just dressing up as witches and vampires all in black with pointed hats and fake fangs these days. Now they are wearing costumes that even scare other adults, let alone the kids they meet on the street, and that’s just in a small town. I can’t imagine how scary it is in the bigger cities.

November brings in the last full month of Autumn, and we see the bare branches on most the trees by the end of the month. When I was a kid in grade school, we were making turkeys out of colored construction paper and learning about the pilgrims the entire month. I still have some of those cute turkeys and pilgrim’s hats my kids made in their elementary days at Marnie Simons. It seems like only yesterday that my fridge was covered with their creations. My, how times flies! We start off November looking up new recipes or digging out the old favorites to make on the last Thursday of the month. A lot of people complain about the holidays being too commercialized these days, and I agree, except for Thanksgiving. It kind of gets lost in the shuffle, because the only thing that you actually purchase for that holiday is food – no costumes or gifts to be advertised for us to spend our hard-earned money on. I kind of like that. Knowing that there is still one holiday, and it’s only an American holiday, that refuses to cater to the big business of buying and selling. It just quietly rolls around each year, and we find ourselves sitting around a dinner table with family and friends, enjoying our favorite dishes and talking about what’s gone on in our lives over the past 12 months. It’s the “family” holiday where we just get together because we want to, no stress over buying gifts or whether they like what we give them, just being together and enjoying one another’s company, and oh yeah, some football games are usually thrown in while we sit around the living room and groan about having ate too much! Of course, everyone always has some room for pumpkin pie later on in the afternoon before heading back to their respective homes. For many, they are thinking of getting up early for the Black Friday sales the next day to jump-start their Christmas shopping, but I think a lot are just being thankful to still have that parent or grandparent around to share one more holiday with. I’m sure there are many like myself who feels sad about the empty chair at the table, but so grateful for all the wonderful memories that keeps them alive in our hearts. For this month of November, let’s remember the ones we’ve lost, enjoy the time left with the ones we still have, and be thankful for life on the back roads for one more year.
– Debbie Dovel

One Day Closer to You

Chad picking up leavea, NCECBVI

As I lie in bed each night,
Thinking of the days that are gone,
Memories run thru my mind,
And I don’t know how I’ll go on

Without your smile in the morning
And your “Love ya, Mom” every night,
Life just doesn’t seem worth living,
And nothing can make it right

No one seems to remember you
Or even mentions your name
Their lives have gone on without you
But mine will never be the same

I know that you’re with Jesus
And the rest of the family there
You’re walking, talking, & seeing,
All the things you couldn’t do here

I don’t wish you back to this world
To the body that failed you each day
Although your spirit was strong
And you blessed us in so many ways

I just keep telling myself
When I don’t know what else to do
That every night when day is done,
I’m one day closer to you

One day closer to eternity
where we’ll never have to part
Where the lion lies down with the lamb,
And there’s only love in every heart

One day closer to that magnificent place
Where Jesus reigns as king
Where there’s no more death or disease
And with the angels, we will sing

Life gets harder here on earth
As Satan grows bolder each day
Taking the lives of unborn babies
And so many think it’s okay

Where marriage no longer stands
For what God created it to be
Living together has become the norm
And being gay is celebrated with glee

“In God We Trust” has been our motto
In this great country for so long
But now they say it offends the atheists,
I’m afraid soon it, too, will be gone

Just like prayer was taken from schools
And the Bible is no longer read
God’s laws are being ignored
And Christianity may soon be dead

When Christ comes for His church
And we rise to join Him above
There will only be hate left behind
No more compassion or love

I pray for those who are lost
To be saved before it’s too late
Family, friends, & neighbors –
Enter thru the narrow gate

For wide is the road that leads to destruction,
And there are many here who walk it
But narrow the way to life eternal
And you’ve got to do more than just “talk it”

Well, Chad, I’m glad we’ve had this little talk
I’ll keep praying and believing as you do
And loving everyone like you did
Until I’m one day closer to you

–Debbie Dovel