Posts Tagged ‘death’

First Fire of Autumn

IMG_2129Wes and I have some good conversations on our daily commutes. This morning we remarked on the vibrant colors of changing fall leaves.

“Which color that you see is your favorite?”
“Oh, Mama, I love the red leaves.”
“Me, too. The way the sun shines on them, it looks kinda like–”
“FIRE!”
“That’s just what I was going to say!”
“I know, Mama.”

(And YES, he DOES tack on “Mama” to nearly everything he says to me. It’s like he likes the way it sounds, or maybe it’s a way to reiterate his points. I don’t know, really, but it’s pretty great.)

Usually I dislike this time of year because the season changes quickly in a long, drawn-out winter. Subconsciously I’ve associated fallen leaves with deadness and lifelessness, and it spoils my chance to embrace the beauty and coziness of October. Easily affected by sunlight and season changes, I know it begins with my moodiness.

I’ve felt pretty dead inside most of this calendar year. I’ve experienced death in various forms: the death of my grandma in January, friends recovering from miscarriage, and the recent death of a friend in September – the combination of which left me shaking and unstable. I didn’t realize how much I had been exponentially mourning these losses. During this time, I felt that I had also said goodbye to unrealistic hopes and dreams. And, in a way, saying goodbye to our first home in a flurry and whirlwind didn’t easily close a door that I had wanted to shut gently behind us.

The extended dry spell (and resulting sunshine) and surprising warmth over the last couple weeks has helped tremendously. It’s like the fog cleared some of the haze away. I’ve spent more quality time with loved ones and friends, which does wonders to my soul.

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Picking up a friend for an evening play date of leaf piles, bonfires and s’mores with fellow neighbor kids.

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And October brings many chances to celebrate LIFE. Our Godson, Lucian, was a long-awaited answer to prayer on October 13, 2014. It’s hard to believe he’s here – let alone 1 year old. Last week, my grandpa turned 89, and on his birthday my sister witnessed a few of his good, hearty laughs that we used to hear much more as kids than we do now. And this week, we celebrate my wonderful mom and my vivacious 3-year-old nephew, Josiah.

IMG_2059On a lighter note, Steven and I were featured in an Indianapolis Star article on divided households in preparation for this season’s Colts vs Patriots game. It was great fun to be light-hearted, and we received a wealth of fun support and (mostly loving) teasing from family to people we haven’t heard from in years.

Twice in the last few weeks I have heard people use the same analogy about their desire for a “burning bush” from God – a clear directive. Maybe the fire we saw in those red leaves today were shining for me. When God appeared to Moses in the form of a burning bush, he said (paraphrased):  I have seen the misery of my people, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come to rescue them.

Those red leaves were beautiful. And the sky was so blue against them. How could I have not seen such October beauty before? Also – it’s so good to have the Good Guy on your side, isn’t it?

Posted: October 19th, 2015
Categories: Leah
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Healthy Mourning

candleI’m not sure how to write this post. I’ve attempted it several times and given up. I started with a letter format, and then I thought about creating lists and self-help guidance, and I kept getting it out all wrong.

I’ve been grieving. I’m mourning for a friend who buried a spouse, and it’s affecting me in ways I didn’t anticipate. I mourn for my friend who is now head the household and a single parent to a toddler. I know they are well supported by an amazing community and a small hometown full of family and friends, but my heart aches deeply for these sweet people who deserve the whole world.

I feel the need to protect the goodness from seeping out of my friend. A friend who is the first to volunteer, to give back, to organize – it’s not fair.

And then my thoughts instantly shift into feelings of guilt. I feel guilty for thinking that my friend needs overwhelming support, perhaps making the subconscious assumption that my friend cannot deal with grief – that the strength isn’t there. I mean, I know support is appreciated and likely needed from time to time, but we’re talking about one of the strongest and selfless people I know.

I feel guilty for “stealing the thunder;” like, the grief belongs to my friend and not to me, really. I shouldn’t blunder along and unintentionally make my own sorrow my friend’s problem, too.

Because of these feelings of guilt, I tried to overcome my grief by layering other thoughts on top of it, but it didn’t work so well. I couldn’t concentrate at work and found myself more irritable at Steven and Wes. I knew it was because I wasn’t properly addressing the grief nagging at me.

Everyone says you need to face it head-on, so remember the post about love languages? It came in handy again. I realized that acts of service was not only one of my love languages, but I knew it was also very strong on my friend’s list. Finding tangible ways to move this grief into something productive seemed to work. Wes wanted in on the action, because, well, he’s my little helper, and acts of service is one of HIS love languages, too. We worked together to make small things (like household chores and playing with our friend’s dogs) into big pieces of love.

And to top it off, our church sermon series called, “One Another,” concluded this weekend. Sunday’s scripture in particular moved me. “God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.” – 1 Peter 4:10. Though not a “love language,” I do think I have the gift of empathy. And yes, that’s a way that I love others. I love my friend, and my feelings of grief aren’t bad – they’re real, raw and full of empathy. Of which moves me into acts of service.

What I think many people forget is that, yes, life goes on, but support is still needed. At my office, I found several tips for friends of families living with Alzheimer’s disease surprisingly helpful and applicable. Though meant for a completely different audience, the tips resonated with me as a friend who desperately wants to be supportive. (And you know I have to work a list into a post somehow!)

  • Educate yourself.
    Learn about its effects and how to respond.
  • Stay in touch.
    A card, a call or a visit means a lot and shows you care.
  • Be patient.
    Adjusting is an ongoing process and each person reacts differently.
  • Offer a shoulder to lean on.
    Simply offering your support and friendship is helpful.
  • Offer assistance to help the family tackle its to-do list.
    Prepare a meal, run an errand or provide a ride.
  • Engage family members in activities.
    Invite them to go on a walk or participate in other activities.
  • Offer family members a reprieve.
    Spend time with dependents so family members can go out alone or visit with friends.
  • Be flexible.
    Don’t get frustrated if your offer for support is not accepted immediately. The family may need time to assess its needs.

It’s important for me to mourn in a healthy way – a balance of respect, empathy and encouragement. If you know of a friend or family member who has recently (or not so recently) endured a tragic experience, please reach out to them. He or she may need a reminder that you’re thinking of them, and it may also help you.

“Dear children, let us not love with words or speech, but with actions and in truth.” – 1 John 3:18

Posted: October 13th, 2015
Categories: Leah
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Saying Goodbye

IMG_8233What do you think heaven is like? I like my mom’s answer the best, “I can picture thousands of choirs singing in every language.” Wouldn’t it be great to be a member of that choir, being able to sing praises in every tongue and language since the beginning of time? My grandma is the newest recruit, and how she loved to sing on earth! I bet she’s the loudest one up front.

Just 3 days before she died, Wes and I joined my parents in visiting both of my mom’s parents. I’ve always bragged about their independence; they’ve lived in a condo in an assisted living complex for over 10 years. But just before Christmas, Grandma developed a blood infection and cellosis and was in the hospital for a little over a week before beating that and spending the next couple weeks in a rehab facility.

While she was in rehab, Grandpa had a strange episode of weakness and slight confusion (we now think it could have been the flu or an infection. His MRI was normal.) and ended up in his own main-building room for a few days. We had visited while Grandma was in the hospital, but we knew we should see them again now that they were both unstable.

Saturday’s visit was great fun. The rain wouldn’t let up, but we brought games, movies and, of course, Wes’ camera. We exchanged belated Christmas gifts, laughed and were positive about Grandma’s recovery. She was anticipating her discharge date.

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Wes’ photo of Grandma while in rehab

 

And then it all changed. In the next 48 hours, she developed the flu, pneumonia in both lungs and her kidneys began to fail. She went to be with Jesus at 10:31 a.m. on January 6, 2015.

I lost my paternal grandparents while in high school and college, and still grieve for them today. But I only vaguely remember my pain and mourning at the time of their passings. I must have blocked it out of my memory, perhaps like parents “forget” the pain of childbirth and pregnancy after it’s all done.

Losing Grandma has been much more painful than I expected. The funeral was lovely; my sister and cousins spoke at her service, we led a congregational singing of How Great Thou Art – which was the most beautiful rendition I have ever heard – and we finally realized why it was so difficult to absorb her death. Grandma & Grandpa were all of our (there’s 10 of us first cousins) only living grandparents. And we have been very blessed to know them all of our 30+ years, and well. They loved our kids, too, and were very active in our lives. Grandpa is our last living grandparent; it’s hard to imagine a life without grandparents.

It’s been two weeks since Grandma’s funeral. Life is beginning to normalize again, but she is missed. My mom and her siblings still have a few loose ends to tie with Grandpa’s move into a facility apartment, and we will eventually need to sort through furniture and items. Grandpa seems to be alright, but it’s a major adjustment.

I’ve been overwhelmed with the amount of support and sympathy from family and friends through cards, flowers and emails. My mom and cousins have said similar things – it’s wonderful to know how loved Grandma was and is and how generous and kind our network of support has been.

Grandma, sing loud in heaven! I’ll see you again one day.

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Obituary:
RICHMOND, Ind. – Maxine V. Ashbaugh, age 86, of Richmond, died Tuesday, January 6, 2015, at Reid Hospital. Born May 17, 1928, in Darke County, Ohio, to Melvin and Hannah Deaton Rust, Maxine was a 1946 graduate of Gratis High School in Gratis, Ohio. She attended Manchester College. Maxine lived in Richmond since 1949. She was a receptionist for Delynn W. Stults, D.D.S. for ten years, a teacher for two years in Lewisburg, Ohio, and a teacher’s aide at Holy Family Catholic School for four years. Maxine was a charter member of the Northside Church of Christ, where she taught Sunday School, held several offices at the church, sang in the choir, and sang solos. She was a member of Gingham Gals Home Economics. Maxine enjoyed spending time with her family. Survivors include her husband of 65 years, Donald Floyd Ashbaugh, to whom she was married on August 27, 1949; children, Jenny (Ron) Fernsler of Indianapolis, Indiana, Keith E. (Dee) Ashbaugh of Franklin, Ohio, David (Patty) Ashbaugh of New Whiteland, Indiana, and Julie (Michael) Chitwood of Franklin, Indiana; ten grandchildren; eight great-grandchildren; sisters, Louise Blickenstaff of Greenville, Ohio, and Margaret Ann Justice of Lebanon, Ohio; nieces; nephews; cousins; and many friends. She was preceded in death by her parents; sisters, Geneve Rust and Fern Brestel Carter; and brothers, Rev. Glenn C. Rust and Dr. Cecil F. Rust. Visitation for Maxine V. Ashbaugh will be from 4 to 7:00 p.m. Friday, January 9, 2015, at Doan & Mills Funeral Home, 790 National Road West, Richmond. Funeral service will be at 11:00 a.m. Saturday, January 10, 2015, at Doan & Mills Funeral Home with Pastor Christian Penrod officiating. Burial will be in Crown Hill Cemetery. Memorial contributions may be made to: Northside Church of Christ, 1962 Chester Boulevard, Richmond, IN 47374 or Riley Children’s Foundation, Attn: Gift Processing, 30 South Meridian Street, Suite 200, Indianapolis, IN 46204-3509. Condolences may be sent to the family via the guest book at www.doanmillsfuneralhome.com.

Posted: January 24th, 2015
Categories: Leah
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The Day After

Tomorrow is Easter Sunday, the day of celebration. And yesterday was Good Friday. But what about that day of gloom in between? No one seems to recognize it, but I have always considered it one of the worst days of limbo each year.

When my grandma was admitted to the hospital, we knew to say our goodbyes. I was 15; insecure and troubled with my own inner struggles. She was one that I connected with; I wanted to grow up to be like my grandma. She was kind, gentle and had a full heart of love for everybody. And she never lost the chance to tell us grandkids so. But she had not been herself over the last few years; dementia had nestled into her mind and began to do its unfair damage. It’s such a cruel disease. I had slowly said my goodbyes to the grandma I knew up until the hospital.

The followers of Jesus didn’t get a chance to say their goodbyes over the course of time. Not like I did with my grandma. Of course, he gave them plenty of advance notice, but chances are they were just typical people who didn’t understand his meanings until much later.

Grandma went to be with God pretty soon after she was admitted. Or so I remember. In my memory, it was time. I had let her go, and I didn’t weep like I thought I would have. There was no easy way for the followers of Jesus to let him go. They had to watch him be tried, beaten and torn in two. They watched their beloved hang and bleed, and I can only imagine the sounds of sorrow, anguish and pain from those who loved him as he breathed his last.

They were able to finally say goodbye when he was placed in the tomb. They probably felt defeated, confused and so, so tired. It wears the body down to mourn that hard. I mean, you probably remember the last time you cried so hard your eyes burned. That’s not something you forget – because all your energy is seeped out into tears. I wonder what the memorial service for Jesus was like. Did the soldiers gawk? Did they feel the tiniest bit of pity for the survivors? Did Jesus’ followers try to comfort each other?

The funerals in my family are more like celebrations. We love seeing everyone and catching up. It’s a morbid way for a family reunion, but I am blessed to know that most of my family members know Jesus, and so, it is not a doomed situation. We grieve together, but then we remember. You’ll typically find us laughing and smiling. And I really think that’s how my passed family members would want it.

And then? After the burial? Everyone’s supposed to go “back to normal.”

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Grandma’s locket

I seem to remember holding it together pretty well during my grandma’s funeral. But man, those days following were tough. I think it hit me all of a sudden, and then I was expected to reenter into those difficult and challenging adolescent days. People don’t think to check up on those who’ve lost a loved one very well. I think I could have benefited from a caring person who understood that I hadn’t fully finished mourning. I still have days where I think fondly of her, even all these years later. I know she is with Jesus, but I am selfish and wish she could have met my husband and son. These are the days that I pull out her old jewelry, a memento.

What about the followers of Jesus? What could they have been thinking? Did they feel tricked? Did they even think at all? I have to believe that those who continued with their lives “as normal” the day after Jesus’ death had the most faith in the entire world. They must have known it wasn’t the end.

Seriously, Day 2 is more gloomy and horrible than Good Friday to me. I am grateful to know the rest of the story, and you better believe I’ll be celebrating in the morning!

Posted: March 30th, 2013
Categories: Leah
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