Carrying Her Heart

I am dedicating this site to my beloved daughter Rachel whose earthly life ended on Sept. 17,2009.This is just a glimpse of the path I walk through this journey of grief.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Whats a Hemi

A letter of love from my brother, or as Rachel called him "Cooler"....


That is the last question that Rachel asked me late one night just weeks before she left us. We would exchange texts at what others would consider odd times but it worked for us. A lot of things we did would be considered odd by others but it was our “normal”. How many teenage girls do you know that enjoyed going fishing in the middle of the night? Especially with their uncle? And even bring along one of her friends to witness it? I was lucky enough to be considered the cool uncle. You know the type, the one that lets you drive when you are way too young (among other things). She loved to listen to “QUEEN” on our many outings. What many would consider eclectic was our daily routine.

The last time I saw Rachel she had called me late at night and asked me what I was doing. She was great at asking for something without actually asking. She finally said that her car had “just stopped on the side of the road”. When I got to her I found that it was simply a bad battery terminal, got her going again and had her follow me to Wally World for a replacement. At this time in her life she was staying with some friends, trying to find herself. As I was replacing the terminal I asked her how things were going. She simply replied “things will be better when I go home”.

One of Rachels strongest qualities was that of forgiveness. I witnessed her forgive people for things that I would have had problems doing the same. The last time I heard her voice on the phone she spoke of forgiveness.

James 1:17 tells us that “every good and perfect gift comes from above from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning”. Rachel may not have been the perfect daughter, niece, sister, cousin or friend but she was the perfect gift. She touched more lives in her short time here then I could ever hope to. There is an empty spot in my heart because she is gone, but there will always be a spot in my heart that will never be empty because she was here.

As those of us that knew Rachel take our own journey through grief we all have questions of why. I challenge you to not ask why she is gone but rather why were you allowed to witness her while she was here. Don’t ask why she was taken away but what did any of us do to deserve to have had her for even just a second in our life. This is what I do to carry on with my journey. It may not work for you. Even though there are many of us on this journey we must all take our own paths. Psalms 23:4 says “yea I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil”. It is a singular statement. That journey is one that everyone must make alone. There is always support, there is always others involved, there is always God, but in the end it is just you and Him. God is love, and we all know what Rachel thought about LOVE.

Friday, February 25, 2011

What is Love?

Here is another "love letter".It is from my niece Amber..
the one who gifted me with "Rachels heart"......

Suzette and I were talking on the phone recently, and she mentioned how each of us think that our relationship with Rachel was particularly special. It's so true. I'm one that knows I was particularly blessed to have Rachel in my life. Our relationship was a little different than most cousins. Sometimes I was like a big sister. Sometimes I was a Sunday School teacher. Sometimes I was a camp counselor. Always we were friends.

Rachel loved to laugh and loved to make people laugh. We shared an appreciation for the humor in quite a few SNL sketches, and for whatever reason, since Suzette offered for me to write about love this month, I can't kick the Night at the Roxbury song out of my head.

"What is love?"

Okay so here's what I know. Love is a word that's thrown around a lot these days. People love (luv, lurve, loooooove) things, people, pets, attention, drugs, money, music, reality TV, and on and on and on it goes. Then there is a more romantic, "true love" kind of love that people consider. You know, when you find your soul mate. Prince charming.

God doesn't label love. There aren't sub categories for LOVE in 1 Corinthians 13. It tells us what love is. It tells us what we are or are not if we don't have that love. It's not about works. Not about generosity. Not about faith alone. It's 13 verses, and I know you've probably seen it, but for easy reference, here goes:

1 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

It makes my heart happy to know that these were Rachel's favorite verses. I think all of us that were involved with her understood her passion for life. We understood that when she said "I love you," they weren't words thrown around. She saw examples of great love in her life, and she experienced the love that surpasses all understanding in her relationship with God.

Here's what I think about love. It, like all things, is a gift from God. Without love, there is no faith. Without love, there cannot be hope. That's why it's the greatest.

That doesn't mean that there will never be trials. I know that God loves Suzette. I know that God loves Rachel. God loves me, and He loves you, too. I know the pain that I experience with random memories, and the feeling I get in my chest, and I cannot even try to imagine how it feels for others. That pain is love. In our loss, there are lessons. Suzette's love for Rachel, her faith, her love, despite grief, loss, and pain has created this place to share what she has learned through love. That's why we all read it. It is amazing to see God's love present even in loss.

Losing Rachel impacted my life in a very big way. There aren't words to even begin to tell about it. Since that September, though, I can tell you that there is now love in every sunrise, because I think of her. There is a new kind of love in Praise and Worship music at church. The words touch me differently than they used to. Rachel's senior picture is on my fridge, so there is love every time I walk in my kitchen. There is love in every memory, even when it hurts. There is love in remembering Wayne's World quotes or someone mentioning the need for more cow bell (I know, but it's true...).

God gives us the ability to really love. To experience true love. If you don't know what that feels like; if you are searching everywhere to find love, and you're finding emptiness, I encourage you to look to God. That's why Suzette has been a pillar of strength for so many. That's why hearts are so powerful to our family. There is so much love in seeing that simple shape. Not because we love perfectly, but because we know that perfect, forgiving, merciful, Agape love is available to us.

We may not be capable of loving perfectly, but in the meantime, I'm happy to know where I can find that perfect love. Really love those around you. Appreciate that God loves us despite our faults. Not just an "i luv u" kind of love, but a perfect, forgiving, selfless, patient love.

Love never fails.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Miracles abound

Today is my birthday.My husband told me before he left for work that he hoped I had a good day. I am trying to learn the difference between "happy" and "joy".God does not promise to make me happy, but he will restore my joy. Joy is best defined as cheerfulness, or calm delight, both of which I would accept. My gift to myself today was to work in my garden. I had been out there several times raking out leaves, pulling weeds, and trimming off frozen foliage. It was hard for me to be in it because I just couldn't stand seeing it so bare. I had managed to keep several things from freezing, and even had some flowers still blooming, but I just needed it to be like it was. As I was down on my knees pulling every last weed out, I noticed that several of my plants had new leaves...almost overnight...and on of all things my birthday !!

I was so careful to pull the mulch away from the tender little shoots. Part of a Bible verse kept coming to mind “Behold, I make all things new.” As I sat in my garden and looked at theses new little plants I realized that the verse was for me too..ALL things new....God can do that for me too.. things will never be the same, maybe they shouldn't be..but ..they can be new..God can make me new. As I looked up the verse, I loved that it came right behind the verse that I have posted ALWAYS on this blog..Revelation 21

4 And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”
5 Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.”

Creation shows the power of God
There's glory all around,
And those who see must stand in awe,
For miracles abound.

I believe in miracles
I've see a soul set free,
Miraculous the change in one
Redeemed through Calvary;
I've seen the lily push its way
Up through the stubborn sod
I believe in miracles
For I believe in God!

2. I cannot doubt the work of God
It's plain for all to see;
The miracles that He has wrought
Should lead to Calvary.

I believe in miracles
I've see a soul set free,
Miraculous the change in one
Redeemed through Calvary;
I've seen the lily push its way
Up through the stubborn sod
I believe in miracles
For I believe in God!

3. The love of God! O power divine!
'Tis wonderful to see
The miracle of grace performed
Within the heart of me.

I believe in miracles
I've see a soul set free,
Miraculous the change in one
Redeemed through Calvary;
I've seen the lily push its way
Up through the stubborn sod
I believe in miracles
For I believe in God!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Looking passed the veil

There is a veil of grief that covers me.
It changes the way I see the world,
and everything that surrounds me.
Some days it is color and in weight.
It brightens and enhances everything in my sight.
Then there are those days
when everything
seems to be a shade of grey.
I saw a comment the other day about grief.
It was so honest. It made me want to rip my veil off.
This young girl wrote "I grew up watching my mother live through grief.
I came to resent a brother that I never even knew"....
powerful words.
I try to stay very "present" in the lives of the those in my family.
Some days that means I am sitting in the room with them...breathing...
black veil days..
I have to choose to see
even on the darkest of days..
to see through the black veil ..
We have a sadness that there is no word for..
there is "orphan"
there is "widow"
there is "widower".
but for those of us who wear THIS veil
there is no word..
there are no words..
There is only the promise ...

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. john 11:25

Monday, February 14, 2011

Rachels Heart

My sweet niece had this heart made in remembrance of Rach. It is a physical reminder of love, comfort and healing. It reminds me of what a blessing Rachel was and is to me.Each part of this heart has a meaning. It symbolizes an intention or blessing:

Rose quartz: for the love we had for each other as well as peace and emotional healing.
Amethyst: for easing of grief.
Emerald: to remind me of all the beautiful memories I have of her.
A single pearl: for faith and motherhood. I WILL ALWAYS BE HER ONE AND ONLY MOTHER.
Moonstone: for all the hopes and dreams I had for her.
Silver: for perseverance and strength as I heal.
Butterfly charm: According to Irish legend, when a mother loses a child, they come to visit them in the form of a white butterfly.
and at the center of it all
Citrine: it represents Rachel, inside my heart and surrounded by all of my love,hope,dreams,faith,and lovely memories.

Is that not beautiful? I keep it where I can always see it.What better day to share it with you than on Valentines Day. And I can think of no better words to go with it than those from our poem.
I carry your heart, I carry it in my heart.

"Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love" psalm 51:1

David knew what I know now...that Gods


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

God bless you

Monday I was in Hobby Lobby and I found this garden statue..

She is supposed to have wings, they were nowhere to be found. They had one other just like her on the shelf, but her wings were chipped.I decided I liked the one with no wings, I was really just interested in the Calla lilies. I brought her up to the front to see what kind of "deal" they would make on her. The young lady at the check out just couldn't understand why I would want this broken statue. I tried to just stand and smile hoping for a great reduction in the price. I didn't want to tell them WHY I needed it. I didn't want to use my sadness to try to get a bargain.Finally, the price was said, she was wrapped up in paper,and I was ready to go.As I was paying I told the sweet young lady why I needed that statue so bad. I told her that I would probably just turn it into a planter and put it out at my daughters grave. I don't remember seeing someone that I don't even know, be so deeply affected by my words. She wanted to know more but didn't know how to ask ,or if was okay to ask ..her eyes were so full of emotion. She very cautiously asked me what happended and then she asked "how old is your daughter". I was very aware that she didn't put Rachel in the past tense. I told her that she was 19 .She looked hard into my eyes and very slowly said " SHE WAS JUST A BABY". I have heard those words over and over in my head.I don't remember hearing them before.Maybe its just been awhile. Of course I 've heard the words young, too was just something about the way this young girl spoke them. By now she had at least 5 people in her line waiting. She very slowly finished my transaction, and then walked around the counter and gave me the best hug. Her last words to me were "God bless you". So tonight as I sit and write this, I had typed in the words "God bless you" in the search box just to see what comes up.The first thing I clicked on brought me to this page with a poem and pictures of .....

Here is the poem. I couldn't copy the photos so I added the link .If you would like to visit it, click on the title. What a great ending to very hard day.

I seek in prayerful words, dear friend,
My heart’s true wish to send you,
That you may know that, far or near,
My loving thoughts attend you.

I cannot find a truer word,
Nor better to address you;
Nor song, nor poem have I heard
Is sweeter than God bless you!

God bless you! So I’ve wished you all
Of brightness life possesses;
For can there any joy at all
Be yours unless God blesses?

God bless you! So I breathe a charm
Lest grief’s dark night oppress you,
For how can sorrow bring you harm
If ’tis God’s way to bless you?

And so, “through all thy days
May shadows touch thee never-”
But this alone – God bless thee-
Then art thou safe forever.

Author Unknown

Sunday, February 6, 2011

This side of Heaven

Since February is the month of "love", I thought I would let some of those closest to Rachel share a love letter with you.This first one is from my sister...

How do you wrap up a life in three days?

That was the question I kept asking myself during the days following Rachel's accident, as I stood beside Suzette and watched her take care of the necessary funeral arrangements. How do you honor this child's life in this moment? If you were there, then you know the care and attention that was given to each and every detail. And, how beautiful it was.

Suzette has given me the opportunity to honor Rachel in my own way by writing a guest post here on Rachel's blog. I think she's either having writers block or feeling sorry for me because of a recent foot injury that has left me stuck at home for a few days. Most likely the latter because I don't think she will ever run out of inspiration to share with us.

I could write pages and pages about my own personal grief, the loss of a young person, the effects on a family, fear, faith, sadness...on and on. Those are all very important and relevant, however I want to share some of the lessons and experiences of grace that have occurred in the past year. All with the intention of honoring Rachel and her memory.

Right about now I'm wishing I had made notes to keep this cohesive, but I didn't, so because this isn't for a grade I'm gonna shoot from the hip and keep it conversational.

One of the first sermons I heard at my church following the accident was titled "How to Recover From Your Worst Day Ever". I wanted to eat it up and roll my eyes all at the same time. How was I going to sit through this? As if, right? One of the talking points of the sermon was about controlling our emotions, to find joy in life even when it's hard. My husband had given me this same pep talk. Man, let me tell you that takes some conscious effort and discipline. And prayer. And when I am being conscious, I see the blessings and that brings a little bit of healing.

A result of this consciousness has been the lessons learned from this experience.
One lesson is that everyone has a story or profound experience that they are carrying with them that effects them every day of their lives. I may not know what it is, but I know it's there.

There are many messages of love woven through Suzette's blog, especially the recurring "Love Never Fails". It's no accident. The relationship between Suzette and Rachel was and is a beautiful example of Agape love. The commitment of forgetting self and giving oneself away to others. Rachel lived that way and it's a beautiful reminder for me as a woman and a mother. Suzette's mothering skills inspire me to love my family unconditionally, which is the pinnacle of love.

Last summer our family vacationed in California for the first time. One of our hikes led us to a very isolated and windy beach near Big Sur, where the ocean throws big tree size pieces of driftwood up on the shore. Campers use this wood to build wooden igloo style shelters in the sand to protect themselves from the elements. Their size is very whole family fit in one:

Burned pieces of campfire wood had been used to write on the inside walls of the huts. We left this:

Her favorite scripture which ends with...."the greatest of these is Love".

We take memories of her everywhere we go. I love knowing these words are there, that her name is there, that someone might read the words and know they are loved.

At my neighborhood grocery store, there is a young girl that works there whose name is Rachel. She spells it the same as Rach did. I go to her line just to say her name.

Sometimes, little special "things" happen when we don't expect it. Suzette has shared some of her experiences here. Last September 17, the one year anniversary of Rachel's accident, I reached into a purse I hadn't carried for a while to find a small silver heart that was part of a flower arrangement from Rachel's funeral. I thought I had lost it. I loved finding it that day.

It's hard to share with someone how much I miss Rachel without going into the "ugly" cry. My many close friends and my husband are so patient and let me get it out. In grief, we sometimes pine for ones we have lost. It feels unresolved. Especially when a young life is lost. People ask me what she was like...I often say she was golden, like something so precious and beautiful that it almost hurts your eyes to look at it, like the picture at the top of this blog.

I loved her like this:

My deepest and truest belief is that one day I will see Rach again in Heaven, and we'll sing and praise God together again. Until then, I have her picture taped to the back of my guitar and I rarely pick it up to play that I don't think about her or sing to her in my heart.

Now...a funny aunt memory:
When Rach was really little...maybe 2 or 3 and was learning to count she would say
"......17, 18, 19, Dentyne!"

I hope that makes you smile.

Thank you Suzette, for letting me share a little of what Rachel means to me. I love you.


Friday, February 4, 2011

Back to her

We were supposed to be snowed in today. It didn't happen. I have spent the past couple of days thinking about the last time it snowed for Rach. She was so excited.
I love this photo of her.

I found this in my documents file today. I don't even remember writing it.

I spend all day thinking about her.
Every action I take ,every thought I have,
somehow takes me back to her.
Every time I leave my house,
it takes me back to her.
Every time I see the colors of a sunset,
it takes me back to her.
Every time I take a breath,
it takes me back to her.
Somehow I know that it will
always be this way.
But my hope is that one day
when I look at the sky,
or when I look in the mirror,
or when I get to the end of the road,
a tear won't fall.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


Well the LOVE month is here. I have discovered many new definitions of what love is. Specifically what a Mothers love is. It seems to keep unfolding,like a rose with its petals curled tight. I can't force it to open...only God knows when its ready to bloom.

It is only a tiny rosebud,
A flower of God's design;
But I cannot unfold the petals
With these clumsy hands of mine.

The secret of unfolding flowers
Is not known to such as I.
GOD opens this flower so sweetly,
When in my hands they fade and die.

If I cannot unfold a rosebud,
This flower of God's design,
Then how can I think I have wisdom
To unfold this life of mine?

So I'll trust in Him for His leading
Each moment of every day.
I will look to him for His guidance
Each step of the pilgrim way.

The pathway that lies before me,
Only my Heavenly Father knows.
I'll trust Him to unfold the moments,
Just as He unfolds the rose.

(Helen Steiner Rice)