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Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas Rachel

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas!  

The holidays can be difficult, as so many things can trigger memories.  For me, even though this is the seventh Christmas without Rachel, I still have a hard time.  In the wee hours of Christmas morning, I found myself unable to sleep, truly missing my daughter.  As the tears flowed unbidden, I longed to have her near.  

Recent events of the tragedy that befell Sandy Hook has reminded me of what is missing in my life.  As I thought of all those parents, both young and old, who this holiday would not be able to watch their child open gifts, my heart sank.  My heart longed to reach out to them, knowing full well the emptiness that is staring them squarely in the face.  Of unopened gifts, of promises broken, dreams left unfulfilled, and of all the doubt and confusion that we are left with.  

As a parent, the loss of a child is beyond anything we can explain, it is a hurt and pain that we carry with us always.  Each passing year eases the ache, but we still feel the absence.  Yet, in my hurt I feel the warmth of Rachel's love, her endearing presence, and I know in my heart of hearts that she is near, that she is with me always.  

A beautiful song was sung at the Christmas Eve Mass, that pulled at my heart strings: 

 When Love Was Born by Mark Schultz

Starlight shines, the night is still
Shepherds watch from a hill
I close my eyes, see the night
When love was born

Perfect child gently waits
A mother bends to kiss God's face
I close my eyes, see the night
When love was born

Angels fill the midnight sky, they sing
Hallelujah, He is Christ, our King

Emmanuel, Prince of peace
Loves come down for you and me
Heaven's gift, the holy spark
To let the way inside our hearts

Bethlehem, through your small door
Came the hope we've waited for
The world was changed forevermore
When love was born

I close my eyes, see the night
When love was born

As I listen to the lyrics, as I tried to sing along, the words of the second stanza gripped me, and all I could think of was the night Rachel was born, and how an unbelievable love had entered into my life.  The love of mother and child, a love that allows us to look beyond any imperfection to see, truly see, the beauty that lies within.  A love that reaches beyond the the grave, a love that conquers all, a love that even death cannot diminish, but rather grows even stronger.

Rachel, like your loved one, may be gone from sight, but the love that permeates our very being, lets us know that they are very near.  That they are very much a presence in our lives, and that we are forever changed, because they were a major part of it.  It is the memories that they created, that help me and so many others, face the holidays and special events.  It is the cherished traditions, and the start of new ones dedicated to the memory of our loved one, that see us through.  Let these memories bring you comfort, let them fill you with love and joy, and if they bring a tear or two, let them flow; allow the healing to begin.

Merry Christmas Rachel, and to all those who are spending their first Christmas in heaven.  Let your love pour down on us all, keep us all safe, and hold us gently as we travel through our grief.

Blessings! and until we meet again.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Let Their Light Shine

As so many of you are very much aware of, this nation has been rocked by the tragic events in Connecticut.  So many innocent lives lost, so many hearts broken, so many arms left empty.  Since last Friday's news, my heart has continuously ached, there is a heaviness I cannot seem to shake, and I am reminded of how precious and fleeting our lives truly are.  Somber reminders that we need to live each day as if this is our last, to love unconditionally, and to be present, truly present to those that matter in our lives.

Losing a child is by far one of the hardest things to face, parents just DON'T bury their children, it should always be the other way around.  Yet, I have learned personally that life does not follow or obey the rules.  We live by life's whims and begin to learn to live, fully live in the moment, taking no one for granted.  These past few days are strong reminders of what I have loved and lost, of missing and longing, of wanting just one more glimpse of my daughter.  Yet, I feel her presence even more, I know she is very near, as I type, her smiling face stares back at me from the photo on my desk, reminders that my life has been forever changed.  A reminder that I would not have wanted it any other way, that the gift I was given the day she was born, cannot be taken from me, and that my life is forever enriched because she was a part of it.  

Twenty-seven people lost their lives this past Friday, and countless others have also been taken violently from us, let us not forget, let us keep them all in our prayers, and let us strive to help each other heal.  Let us continue to pray that as a nation we address the key issues that were the underlying causes of such a tragedy, in the hopes of preventing this scene from ever happening again. 

There are always lessons to be learned, there are always I told you so's and what if's, but these are irrelevant in light of what has happened.  Let us look at the pain and suffering of all those impacted by this tragedy, the families, the emergency personnel, faculty, community and it's surrounding neighbors; let us care for these, be a reassuring presence, a beacon of hope and forgo our judgements and assumptions.  Let us keep in mind that these families have faced the unfathomable, their minds have played out and will continue to play out this tragic scene in their heads, until they finally come to peace with it.  Until then, we all need to be a comfort to them, a willing ear allowing them to share their stories and their loved ones stories, assuring them that their loved one truly matters and is not forgotten.  

As a parent, my greatest fear was that my daughter would be forgotten, that Rachel would fade into the sunset.  It is for this very reason that for me and countless others, we remember, we say the 'Name' over and over again, and we want you to ask about them.  Yes, it may bring a tear to our eyes, we may be sad for a moment, but the greatest sadness for me at least, was thinking no one cared or that Rachel was forgotten.  As these families face the dark days ahead, please be gentle with them, please allow them to grieve in the only way they can and know how to.  Many of us who have experienced profound loss understand all to well the need to go through the grief, to cry, to scream, to be angry and to just be.  

No two people experience grief in the same way even if the loss is the same, and for this reason, we must not impose are own misconceptions of the grieving process, but allow them to muddle their way through.  Grief is definitely hard work and no one can do it for us.  As a wise professor once told me, 'we hurt because we love, if we did not love, there would be no pain.'  But who among us, would have wanted to miss out on the love, for all the pain in the suffering, I would not have given up one precious moment with my daughter.  

Remember to allow yourself to grieve, be good to YOU, take care of YOU, and do not be afraid to reach out to others.  No one has to go it alone.  Trust me when I say it, the hardest thing for me, was reaching out for help, but when I finally came to the conclusion that I could not handle it on my own, was the day I let the healing begin. 

My thoughts and prayers are with every family member as they face the unimaginable, as they prepare to say good-bye to their beloved child and loved one.   Know that even though I may be miles away, I stand beside you in spirit and in love.  May their lives continue to shine through each and every one of us. 

Blessings! and until we meet again.