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Thursday, November 27, 2008


Our church choir presented a musical called "Blessings" at the Sunday morning service. They interspersed praise songs, hymns, solos and anthems in a beautiful worship experience.

The first song started my tears flowing and they didn't stop. Because the first song we sang was "Blessed be the name of the Lord." Even before we reached the words "Blessed by Your name on the road marked with suffering, though there's pain in the offering," the tears had started. All I could do was to close my eyes and mouth the words "When the darkness closes in, Lord, still I will say: Blessed be the name of the Lord."

You give and take away. I don't blame God for "taking away" Jolene. She took herself away.

But on this day of Thanksgiving, I thank God for giving me Jolene for almost 24 years. More than 24, if you count the months she lived in my womb. He gave me an awesome, life changing gift, and for that I choose to say, blessed be the name of the Lord.

God has given me so much more this year. Love poured out on Mom and me from our church family, my writing family, my work family. It still has, during our recent surgery. Mom was blown away by the words of sympathy and comfort all the way from Australia, scant hours after we learned about Jolene's death. We have literally had an entire world of support.

God has given me more writing opportunities than I have ever had before--and the grace to meet those deadlines. Prayers still needed on that score: I have two manuscripts due by February 1st.

My daughter-in-law will give birth to my first biological grandchild on December 11th--two weeks from today. Tests indicate it's a baby girl. I am excited to see how excited my son is; and of course I'm thrilled. They are going to give their baby the same middle name as Jolene--Elizabeth--and that touches my heart deeply.

God has provided financially during the days and weeks I have been out of work. At the moment, I am accumulating a large scary debt, but I'm leaving that in God's hands.

Through my loss, I have been aware, more than ever before, of God's constant abiding presence and love. Wherever my grief takes me, He is there before me, with me, around me. He carries me when I cannot stand on my own.

My heart chooses to say--blessed be the name of the Lord.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Home Again

I returned home from surgery and rehab last Thursday. Praise the Lord! Thanks to all of you who are praying for Mom and me through the illness. Long story short, the knee replacement is as painful as warned but I am moving so much better. I can walk again, a blessing after searching for the closest wheelchair for months.

Oh, the wonders of the electronic age, that allowed me to write posts ahead of time and set the time for them to appear.

Mom ended up at the same rehab facility where I went, and the good news is that she will also come home on Wednesday.

The night I arrived at rehab, I fell apart. The cause? A sign on the door to my room read "Family will do laundry." First panic seized me. What family? Grief overwhelmed the panic, and I cried. The only "family" who might have done the laundry (although I doubt it) was, of course, Jolene. I bawled.

God brought a special nurse to my side that night. I explained that my daughter had committed suicide and that I had no family to do my laundry. She patted my arm. "You don't have to say any more. My husband did the same thing, two months ago." She reached out to me in the midst of her pain. I felt understood and validated.

For the month before our surgeries, Mom and I were so wrapped up in pain and concern that Jolene had faded a little from our consciousness. The enforced inactivity and boredom of nursing home life allowed her to resurface. She was often on our minds, and both of us experienced bad spells. I am so thankful God allowed us to be together. To hold each other through the grief until we were ready to go on. I am so thankful God has spared Mom. And after the folks I met at the rehab/nursing facility, I am doubly grateful for her sharp mind and capacity for independent, full living.

There are more stories ... but I will save them for another day.

Pray for us. I am dreading Thursday. No one has invited us to share Thanksgiving with them. Our first major holiday since Jolene's death, and I feel isolated and deserted. Pray also that Mom will be well enough to travel to Oklahoma at Christmas as we had planned.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Family Legend

My son Jaran called to tell me about going through Jolene's things his father had brought back from his recent trip through Colorado. He explained they had allowed the girls to choose one stuffed animal each.

"You'll never believe which one Shannon chose to keep." Jaran paused for dramatic effect. He was a drama major in high school.

"What was that?" Jolene had a lot of beautiful things.


Snoopy. Oh, the memories.

Snoopy is a larger-than-life sized dog (yes, he looks like Peanuts' Snoopy) that has been in our family for 18 years.

How well I remember the day. We held a garage sale before we moved from Oklahoma to Colorado. The goal was to reduce the amount of things we needed to move.

Jaran, age ten at the time, proudly took the quarter he earned, went to another garage sale and came back with--you guessed it--Snoopy. For Jolene.

I was irritated. The gigantic stuffed dog didn't fit into my plans for reducing the move.

But Snoopy joined our family, and she loved him. He followed Jolene when she moved out on her own. By now, the stuffing in his neck has shifted and his head droops. He's well loved and worn, reminiscent of the Velveteen Rabbit.

This July, Snoopy returned to Oklahoma.

And without any knowledge of the history, nine-year-old Shannon chose to keep Snoopy.

The legend lives. Jolene's legacy continues on this, the eighth month anniversary of her death.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Prayer is Like a Cat

The other morning during my quiet time, I watched our cat Talia stretching out on the floor and thought, That's what faith in God is like.

Her needs are simple. Food. Water. Fresh litter. Companionship. Occasional moments of play.

She tells us about those needs. Yesterday, she informed me repeatedly that her automatic feeder was getting low. She persists demands, confident that I will meet those needs. She doesn't worry. She doesn't try to open the bag of cat food by herself. She tells me about the need--repeatedly, if I don't respond immediately--but trusts me to take of her.

Remember Jesus' admonition to ask--seek--keep on knocking in prayer?

Talia models that persistence and trust.

Monday, November 3, 2008


I am writing this a week before the election. I have no idea who will win. Jolene would have been old enough to vote in her second presidential election. I don't think she voted even once.

For some reason the election process frightened Jolene. She didn't know what or who to believe, so she didn't make any choices. Besides, she was disillusioned by the continuing decrease of government funding for people with mental illness. Each and every cut hurt her individually. The one time she considered political action was a protest gathering at the state capitol.

The Democratic nomination was still undecided when she died. I was so excited that either a woman or a black American would be the nominee. (I'm still excited that whichever party wins, we'll have a historic "first.") She got tired of my rants. "When will someone with a mental illness get to lead?" She demanded.

I hope that Sarah Palin's passion for children with special needs extends to those who suffer from mental illness.

Not trying to make a political commentary here, just sharing memories of Jolene that the election stirs in me.