From Personal Pain to Personal Gain ~
When we counsel those who are struggling to put back the pieces of the life they once had, we talk a lot about “the new normal.” The hard, cruel truth, is that the pieces of the old life will never be put back together the way they once were. This is a reality that absolutely must be reckoned with. Many people hang on to their grief unwillingly, simply because it brings that feeling of closeness to their lost loved one. Others move forward, and when they feel the welcoming twinge of joy, or perhaps they unexpectedly laugh or smile, they feel as if they have somehow abandoned their grief for a moment, and in doing this, somehow left their loved one behind.
I’d like to suggest that those who feel ‘stuck’ and cannot see a future anymore, honestly assess their God given gifts and talents, and make a conscious decision to instead honor their loved one’s memory. There are as many ways to do this, as there are stars in the sky. One way, is to involve yourself in work, ministry, volunteer opportunities, etc., which would honor them and fall into a category of what their passions might have been in life. For me personally, I was so deeply influenced by my father’s work in Pastoral Ministry and Chaplaincy that I began to channel my heartache into a very fulfilling work and ministry that I know honors both my mother and father. Through the concert ministry of featherlitemusic.com, GriefShare ministry, and Grief Coaching I am able to do this. I know what a difference having a ‘calling’ and a ‘passion’ for something makes in my life. Every time I sit at the piano in concert, I think of my mother, who was a church pianist, and my biggest cheerleader, musically. When I minister to others with writings, and Biblical counsel, I can picture my father smiling back at me! There are times when I feel a very keen sense of their ‘knowing’…as if they are whispering to me “you did good.”
What will you choose? The Bible says in Deuteronomy 30:19 (NIV), “Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live!”
My prayer is that you will choose the way of life, and in doing this, you will honor the memory of your loved one and keep them close to your heart and feel them near. You move forward in this way, by:
1) Making a conscious decision to seek your own unique way to bring honor to the memory of your loved one.
2) Make a point to reach out to others in love. There is absolutely nothing more healing than to extend grace to someone else who is also hurting.
3) Realize and learn everything you can about emotional healing. I believe this ultimately comes from God, who as creator, made you both a physical and a spiritual being. Trust Him.
4) Realize that peace and pain can coexist. DO NOT sit and wait for all your pain to completely disappear before you move forward. You CAN live a fulfilled life even as you experience pain. A fulfilled life which blossoms out of personal pain, is something to rejoice about! Let your pain be a conduit to something better, not something that you succumb to.
5) Finally, realize that YOU ARE IN CHARGE OF WHAT HAPPENS NEXT, when it comes to where your personal pain and loss will lead you. Make Deuteronomy 30:19 a personal challenge to you.
God bless you!
This week I played for a very special funeral. I’d like to share a little about the four people in this picture. My father (in the middle, pointing! and always the life of the party) was called to Calvary Baptist Church in August, Ga. when was I only 18 months old, and my sister was in Elementary School. Little did they know that when we moved into our new home, they would gain such a lasting and life changing friendship. They became family. I picture these four in my mind. When they met, they were all in their 20’s and 30’s. All raising children, and living busy lives. Working in ministry together, their lives revolved around the church and family. This picture was taken in 2009. This was the last time they were all together. “The gang of four.” There was much laughter, some tears, some pain, and lots of love that day. Slowly we lost them, one by one. The last one left this world on the 11th of this month. Home for Christmas….all together again, at last.
12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.
Madrid, Spain Trip: June 19th – 28th
My journal of a new opportunity ….
In August of 2013, I began to think of an old schoolmate of mine, who had meant a lot to me. She probably had no idea just what an impression she had made on me in the many years we were in school together. But she was one of the most dedicated Christians I knew during those years. She most certainly stood out in our High School for her faith, which she shared so openly. I grew up in a Christian home, the daughter of a Minister, and even so, I was not one to speak openly about my beliefs. I was much too shy to speak out about anything, really.
Days turned into weeks, and I still thought of her. So I decided to ‘google’ her name, and what came up first, was an obituary for her mother, and her name was listed in the surviving family. “That’s it”, I thought. “This must be the reason she keeps coming to my mind.” She had just lost her mother only six months before. I knew that God was leading me to help others who are grieving, and that I hoped to gain more opportunities to share my faith and hope with them. ‘Perhaps the Lord is just wanting me to contact her, and tell her I was thinking of her’, I thought.
After much trepidation, I decided “Why not look on facebook?” and so I did. And I found her easily. Although I felt silly, the Holy Spirit just kept urging me, and so I wrote to her and simply told her how she had been brought to my mind, over and over again, in the last several weeks; I mean, after 40 years, it did feel unusual to go through such a thing. Gladly, I soon received a very nice letter back, and was invited to her house for tea!
I knew that she married right after graduating High School and that she and her husband had been missionaries for about 35 years in Europe. Now she is a Life Coach for Advance Global Coaching.
With me I brought a little gift; three CD’s and one of my favorite books, “Getting Through the Night” by Eugenia Price. What a wonderful visit it was! We reminisced about school days, talked a lot about dealing with the loss of our parents, and heaven. About three hours later, we prayed together and said our goodbyes.
As I drove home, I felt like I had done all the Lord had asked me to do, yet somehow it felt ‘unfinished’ for lack of a better word. Later on I had the nicest voicemail thanking me for the CD’s and a few days later, an email asking to purchase a CD as a Christmas gift for each member of her prayer support group.
We decided to meet for lunch and I would bring the CD’s. What an inspirational time we always have just sharing our faith with each other! She mentioned that her husband had really enjoyed my music. I was preparing for a Christmas Concert which by this time was just a few weeks away. She told me that she would definately be there ‘cheering me on!’
A couple of weeks before the concert, I had an extra choir rehearsal at the church to play for, and made plans to go visit a dear friend for a light dinner at her house on the way. Over dinner, my phone rang and someone left a voicemail. I didn’t recognize the number, and said “I’ll listen to the message later. I have no idea who that could possibly be.”
After dinner we sat in the living room and the conversation led to thoughts about following the Lord, and being willing to go wherever He calls us to go. I said, “I’ve never been called to GO, I have always been called to send; like when I did volunteer work for Gospel for Asia. But I feel like I would surely say yes, I mean if He called me to GO! But He has never called ME to go far away!.”
After saying our goodbyes, I got in my car and drove to the church for rehearsal. I left a little early, since the traffic was usually heavy that time of the evening, but instead it was light, and I surprisingly got there quite early! I pulled up in my favorite parking space, and thought to myself, “I wonder who that could have been calling me?, and so I listened to the voicemail.
What a surprise I was in for! The call was from my High School friend’s husband, saying he would like to talk to me about ‘my piano playing expertise!’ Of course my curiousity was peeked then, and since I had plenty of time before rehearsal, I decided to call right then. He said “Did my wife tell you what I do for a living?” I said, “Well I know that you take groups on mission trips full time. That is all I know.” As he went on to explain, I was more and more amazed. But the words that really made me smile, was the question: “Would you consider going on a ten day concert tour to Madrid?” Inside, I almost laughed! (Well of course, I had just said thirty minutes before, that I was sure I would say yes, if God asked me to GO). It’s funny looking back, at the reaction I had. God had simply amazed me once again. It’s just that simple.
If we truly follow God with all our heart, He will continue to amaze us. He does orchestrate events in our lives in such a unique way sometimes, that only by reaching the point where we can look back, can we realize what actually took place! Never underestimate God!
In the final days of my mother’s hard work of leaving this world, many unusual events occurred. My first hard lesson was learning that for most people, the process of leaving us is real work. I prefer to think of it as a rebirth. Just as a mother labors to give life to her precious baby; after all the hard work is over, it is immediately replaced by such exhilaration that words cannot express the overwhelming joy! For those leaving this world with all of its imperfections, what a moment that must be to finally ARRIVE; to a place where all things are made right; to a place of indescribable beauty, joy, and peace.
In one of those final days, as my mother was well into the process of leaving this world, a most unusual event occurred. It was a statement made by my dear father at the age of 92, with late stage Alzheimers. My mom and dad shared a room together in an Alzheimer’s Unit and had been there for over a year. It happened right after dusk. We were so weary. The darkness that had slowly filled that room had hardly been noticed by me. We had watched for over 10 days as she struggled. Real depression and disappointment had set in. We thought he was sound asleep in his bed on the other side of the room. His speech had been nothing but gibberish for a very long time. Suddenly he raised up from his bed and looked over in my direction as I sat by her bedside. Out of the darkness, I heard him say in perfect diction: “Did you lose a butterfly?” “What did he say?” I spoke to my daughter in amazement. She confirmed that was exactly what he had said.
A few months later, after the passing, the funeral, the burial; time was taking it’s toll. An invitation came in the mail from the local Hospice which was in charge of her care-giving in her final days. I decided right away that YES I would gladly go to this special event honoring those that were lost during the year.
The event was wonderful. The most inspiring part was connected to a tiny envelope we were each given upon our arrival and instructed to handle it with extreme delicacy. After the message, after the music, after the hugs and well wishes, we went onto the lawn and everyone released a beautiful, but helpless little butterfly from their envelope. In amazement we all stood and watched as they all fluttered and flew away and out of sight. What an unforgettable moment! And on that day, I remembered the words of my father. Yes, I ‘lost a butterfly’ …….. but oh ….. how the butterfly soared!
The Power of a Song
A songwriter doesn’t always realize just how far reaching the life of a song can be. It is almost as if you have nurtured this creation and only after much love, struggle, and pain, you must release it into the world. Whether it falls upon deaf ears, brings a cold hearted individual to their knees, or simply becomes the backdrop for an ordinary day filling it with beauty, you always feel like you have given away a small piece of yourself; and toss it to the ever changing winds of uncertainty with a prayer. In essence, a song … a really special song, seems to actually take on a life if its own. This is my story of such a song in my life ….
Many years ago I wrote a song entitled “He’s in Control.” It had been published in a collection of songs for youth by a publisher in Nashville. One day I received a call from a pastor friend of mine who told me that a Korean Choir had sung in concert that Sunday at his church and he was surprised to hear my song “He’s in Control” in the program. After the concert, he went up to the young woman who sang the song as a solo and told her that he knew the lady who had written that song; as a matter of fact, his youth choir had also sung the song in their church. The young woman was so surprised and asked if he would bring me to their concert in another town the following weekend. She said that she had a strong desire to meet me.
As we arrive at the church concert the following week, I was so excited to hear my song sung by this amazing choir, and to meet this talented soloist. She proceeded to tell me right away why the song had meant so much to her.
It seems that she was looking for a new song to sing in the concert, and while she was attending a music school in New York, a friend had invited her to go and spend the weekend with her family. During her visit, she was looking through some of the music in her friend’s mother’s piano bench. There it was: the song she had been looking for.
She told me the story of how the choir was doing a concert a few months earlier in a church in North Korea. She said that something happened in the congregation as she sang that song; people were crying all over the room. She said the Holy Spirit’s presence was felt in a powerful way.
Hearing her story was a life changing event for me. I had a strong sense of thankfulness; gratitude to a God who can take our seed and literally spread it from one end of the earth to the other! What a miracle! ……. the power of a song.
“Serenity”…….the story behind it all
As a child I often heard the older folks in church speak of Heaven with such longing. As a young person, I couldn’t understand this fascination at all. No matter how much they talked about this wonderful place, I just could not muster up a longing for it. I didn’t even have a desire to learn more about this wonderful place. It wasn’t that I didn’t believe, because I had to consider the source. These were the real ‘cream of the crop’ believers in our church. Their generation was an inspiring one; their faith unwavering; their dedication steadfast; they were the most sincere people I knew in my life.
Now looking back I remember their longing, and can begin to grasp a touch of what they were longing for. When you begin to lose those you love to death, then you begin to long for a place…a place you have never seen: except through the eyes of faith. To be fascinated with a place called Heaven is a good thing! It is the place God has designed for His people!
Over the years I began to experience for the first time what it felt like to lose those I loved. This longing for Heaven became a part of me too. After the loss of my mother and father within just eleven months of each other, contemplating Heaven became a constant source of inspiration for me.
My first recording of original piano works began as a healing process. Writing these melodies was actually a part of my grieving process. I call them “Heaven Songs”, because they help me to imagine that place and how wonderful it will be one day to be reunited again there. For all who grieve, my hope is that these “Heaven Songs” will help you to imagine a place, too.
Corinthians 4:16 -18 says, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
Click “Media” to hear title song from the CD “Serenity
~~ When Grief Comes to Visit ~~
One thing you can know for certain; you will know when grief has come. Your sense of loss is worn like a coat which cannot simply be taken off and hung in your closet and shut the door. Oh, if you could just will it away. In a lifetime we all experience many different types of loss. The loss of a loved one through death brings with it very unique problems and hurdles that the soul must endure; much like a turbulent wave in the ocean that you watch with fear but cannot help but be frozen there; and let the waters rush over you … and like the ocean waves, it will come. Sometimes with a gentle ache of the heart, and sometimes a fierce roaring of emotion that cannot be comforted.
Comforted … we are told that we need to share and lean on those who are near to hold us and draw from their strength. Most of all, we are offered prayers on our behalf and reminded that God loves us and that our loved one is in a much better place. But before the comfort comes, there will be the door that we must walk through. We do not have to be brave. The important thing is that we walk through the door; some with fear and trembling; some with great anger and resentment; some with relief; and some with a gentle sadness that will not let them go. However we walk, the important thing is that we do walk through it.
I am writing out of my loss; my emptiness that wakes with me every morning to greet the new day. At this time, I no longer pray for it to leave me, but I pray that I learn to maintain a life that is productive and have the quality I long for, even in the midst of it. People have many different ways they spend their time as an escape. But at this point in time for me, I have finally realized that there is no escape for me. My world has changed; and I must learn to adapt. Writing helps, and for those who choose to read this, hopefully reading will help you.
It is such a revelation sometimes to hear someone else express something that you have felt yourself but never put into words. A grief counselor I am not; a mourner I am. So don’t let anyone tell you that they are an expert of grief. YOU are the expert of your grief. You know exactly how much it hurts. Sometimes the problem simply is that you cannot put into words the feelings that you have. You may feel like if you could simply have an explanation for the random and sometimes disturbing thoughts that you have, you would feel better. We all have a desire to name things and places. They help us to focus and remember.
There is no doubt, grief is hard work! It is simply exhausting. There is no easy way out; no quick version; not a kit to buy to put it all together for you so that you don’t have to do it yourself. Even though you have many who have gone before you, there still is no ‘one size fits all’ plan, either. Even though we hear about the seven stages of grief, and are given good advice, sometimes it just hurts and that is that.
Lately I have begun to take a different approach. It actually came to me totally by accident. Now it seems to be the most natural thing. Why had I not seen it before? Instead of thinking of some of the things many wonderful people have told me to do to help in the grieving process, I have discovered that for me, my priority has become to find ways to spend my time on those days when my sadness hits really hard. I am counting on these things to help to ease the pain in the end, but I am beginning to see that there is already a lot of benefit in purposely going through the motions and not even thinking about the outcome, because the outcome is in the future, and the future will come on its own. But for now, I must do something … just something while I am waiting for a better day.
We are all molded by the experiences we have. There are some that really do change us in a significant way … forever. I don’t believe we have total control over how losing someone we love dearly to death changes us. I believe that it can be for some just a matter of having the strength to get through it knowing that when we come out on the other side, we will have aspects of our personality that may be altered. Many times we develop positive traits that weren’t there before; we are better people. Think of a person you may know who has a huge capacity to show empathy for others. You may not have anyone come to mind. I have a person who always comes to my mind when I think of these specific qualities. Everyone says that about him; and he has also suffered a lot. I don’t believe he would be as caring; certainly not the man he is today, had he not been through many severe hardships. The irony is, it’s others who have really benefited from what he has learned. Oh, he has the knowledge, but he also suffered personally for it. This type of gift does not come by watching it lived out in others. It comes by experience.
I have always been told that suffering is a part of the Christian walk. Obviously there are things that we can learn only through suffering. The problem is, even though I know this, I still wonder and wish at times that God would teach us through some other means. I’m sure a great Theologian could write a masterpiece on the subject; but for most of us, we still wonder why. It’s okay to wonder and question. Only God has the ultimate revelation. All we can do is ask Him to help us in the journey.
Silent Night … Holy Night … all is calm … all is bright…
In late November of 2010 my mother was dying. This was a time of questioning for me; and learning to trust God on a deeper level. Suffering is so hard for us to understand. Especially as a Christian, it can be a confusing time, when we must witness the suffering of those we love. For me, peace was hard to find … I knew more than anything else, I needed a touch from God. And I prayed for peace.
I wanted to play something special on the piano in her honor on ‘the day’, and even more difficult than playing on such a day, was finding the perfect song; and so I sought God.
November passed and December arrived. “Oh God”, I thought,” I will bury my mother right before Christmas”… and I prayed for peace. I longed for even one moment of rest from the constant emotional pain that would not leave me.
One evening in particular, I had such a heavy heart. I was getting ready to leave the house once again … to sit; to wait. I turned on the radio, and the music was more beautiful than usual. And as it played; Silent Night, Holy Night … all is calm … all is bright. I knew this was the song. And I prayed for peace.
And so I learned a new lesson in letting go… And thank God, I had hope; hope to see her again… someday.
And as the day of her service arrived, I prayed for peace … peace in my heart. As I looked out the window that morning, what a surprise! Snow! I hadn’t heard a forecast of snow! It was beautiful; silent… soft … peaceful. And God spoke to me. And I had peace in my heart.
There is nothing quite like the long ride to the cemetery. Upon our arrival, I looked out across that cemetery lawn, on the coldest day of the year; ice … bitter cold … strong winds … and in my anguish I thought to myself; “How appropriate.” And I prayed HARD … for peace. In my heart I cried out; O God, I CANNOT. I cannot face such a thing as this. And I had heard no forecast of snow … but quietly … and gently … the snow began to fall. And quietly … gently … HIS peace was placed in my heart.
In John chapter 14, 26 and 27, we have this promise in the words of Jesus:
But the comforter, which is the Holy Spirit, whom the father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.
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.
It has been a long hard road for me, losing my mother and father within eleven months of each other. Next month will be two years since the passing of my father. I do not claim to be an expert on how to grieve by any means. I only know what I experienced, and am still experiencing. My prayer is that through my struggles I might be able to comfort someone else who is struggling also.
My father was a Minister and a Chaplain. He was the one that our family always turned to for wisdom, and many other people turned to in their time of grief. It was truly a gift of his, to bring comfort to people. We used to always say that he could just walk into a room and we just ‘felt better.’ So, even though he had Alzheimer’s and didn’t really know who I was exactly, when my mother died, just his presence in the room brought such comfort to me.
As you can imagine, it was even more difficult to grieve for him, since I was without the one I always turned to for guidance in difficult times. However, I am so blessed to have all of his sermons, stories, and writings to read. There is something about putting your thoughts down on paper, and especially in your own handwriting, that brings such life to words, and is such a gift to those who are left behind.
My father, as most preachers, had lots of Bibles, and he loved to give Bibles away. In his later years, anytime he would buy a new Bible, it seemed he would not keep it long before he would give one to a member of the family, always with a special inscription in the front. With me, I had two experiences with a Bible, in which it was as if my father left a special message behind just for me.
I will never forget the first experience with a Bible that he gave to me. I tried to refuse, saying how he had given me many Bibles before, that it wasn’t necessary. He insisted that I MUST take this one. It was a beautiful leather bound Bible. It still looked brand new. As a matter of fact, it looked like it had just been taken off the shelf in the bookstore because there was not one mark or wrinkle anywhere…or so I thought. This particular Bible was so beautiful and I had others which I used on a regular basis, and so I decided that I would just put it away on a shelf with other books in the house. I remember how surprised I was that it had no markings at all in it, because I had never even seen a Bible of his that wasn’t underlined in some way. But one day I was having a particularly hard day as I began thinking about how much I really missed him. At this point in time, the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s had been made ‘official’, although we knew that it was already a reality in our lives. As I walked by that shelf where the Bible was placed, I was compelled to open it. To my surprise, I discovered that there was one passage of scripture which WAS marked. It was as if it were there just for me at that very moment. I knew then that I would need this to get me through some tough times ahead. I stood there in amazement. Little did I know then that this would be read at his funeral service a few years later. This scripture reads:
16 Therefore we do not lose heart, Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. 17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 18 while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
2 Corinthians 5:1-8
1 For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven. 3 If indeed, having not been clothed, we shall not be found naked. 4 For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life. 5 For He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. 6 So we are always confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord. (The New King James Version).
How these words rang true in his life! There were very difficult times ahead.
The second experience with a Bible my father left to me was even more real. It was to come several months later, after his death. All the Bibles were then left to our family. Most of them were left to me along with all of his writings. Of course he didn’t need them now. He was now enjoying all the promises found in those pages!
It was around two or three in the morning. I was suddenly awake and could not go back to sleep. Sleep wasn’t easy in those days, and the grief was so fresh. I found that I was comforted so much by the Bibles he left that were so marked with notes. There was one which I especially loved that was so worn. It was obviously one that he had preached out of for years. I opened it up and turned to Psalm 71. Only two verses were marked on the page:
Psalm 71: 17-18
17 Since my youth, Oh God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds.
18 Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come.
The first experience prepared me for the future and the second was a reminder of the past. There were still more tears to cry , but enough peace to sleep through the night.
Kathy Welch Tucker