Lessons in Loss

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This year has been marked by loss for both Lindy-Ann and myself. As we all struggle to process our way through these difficult times and cope with our own temporariness, I have been overwhelmed with life lessons. Things I have taken away from the lives of those we have lost, watching the people around me process through their grief, and best of all seeing how good truly can come from tragedy and loss.

From a grandfather who is finally at rest after a period of struggling, I learned that it truly is important to invest in your family to form loving and lasting connections that withstand distance and time. To not allow one day to pass without your people knowing you truly love them and they are worthy.  We were never meant to live isolated, and the technology of today can be harnessed to keep families connected regardless of distance.

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From a beloved uncle, as you may have read, I learned that the way you live matters and impacts people more than you will ever know. Leaving a legacy of love and faith with your family and friends will help them heal and grow through the pain of the loss of you.

Then there is the tragedy of a young mother sacrificing her life for her child. Last September, Arlene blew into our community like a warm, floral scented, tropical breeze. Everyone who met her says the same thing: she was was full of life. She lived and loved vibrantly and with passion. Her kind heart and her willingness to be vulnerable and open drew people to her and she was able to share her faith and passions with them.

Our paths were weaved through volunteering at school, Bible Study and church. I also had the honor of capturing her family’s love last fall in their first ever family photo session. It was a fun seaside session with laughter, cuddles, and jumping for joy.

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For the second time this year I was reminded that my job goes beyond just a nice picture on a wall, it captures a moment in family’s life to be treasured, especially in loss.

Which leads me to the first thing I learned from Arlene:

1. Capture the moments with you in it: as I worked on the slideshow for her memorial service I was thankful for two things: the accessibility of Facebook and the way Arlene captured her life. Even though the majority of them were iPhone photos and selfies, she had documented her life and the people she loved. It will be a comfort to her family, especially her children as they grow. It has challenged me to pass my camera off a little more and care a little less about how I look in photos for the sake of my boys. We photogs need to be intentional about being in the photos, not just taking them.

2. Let your light shine: Arlene’s light shone brightly through her smile and her positive attitude; and she shared that with those she loved. The legacy she is leaving her children is one of faith, love, kindness, and living life to the fullest. At the memorial service and in the past few days, everyone agrees that Arlene had a special light about her and, I can tell you, it was supernatural. We all need to let our lights shine brightly and spread that love to others.

3. Don’t procrastinate life: In his speech at the memorial service, Arlene’s husband Joseph challenged us with two things: 1) have the tough conversation with your significant other about your final wishes and 2) intentionally schedule and spend quality time with your loved ones. He reminded us that tomorrow is not guaranteed – we can’t push things this important off to later date that may never come.

Now what? 

How do you want to be remembered? What do you want your family, friends, and community to say about you? It may sound morbid, but if we are truly meant to fight the good fight, and finish the race well, then the day to day does mean something. Your daily choices make up your life and build the legacy you will leave behind.

My hope is, that at my memorial party (which will be a pub filled with revelry and good beer – just saying), the attendees will say I lived boldy, loved deeply, laughed often, gave good hugs, and was His hands and feet. I want to leave my boys with a legacy of faith and truth, the power of prayer, and importance of a good belly laugh. In the midst of the sadness of loss, there has to be laughter in the memories of what has passed and hope in what is to come.

with love,

kdg

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Loss & Legacy

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This week my family suffered the loss of a beloved uncle in a tragic accident. The grief and feelings come in waves. Powerful and crushing and at the same time cathartic and cleansing. The hardest thing is not being able to be there with our family. To tell stories, hear the memories, give hugs, so this is how I will share my heart. This is to honor a man that loved fiercely and did everything with passion.

Uncle John was a bear of a man that would stomp into Grandma and Grandpa’s house with the screen door slamming behind him and a smile that said he was happy to see us come get your hug! He gave bone cracking hugs and good advice. He had the heart of a Scottish highlander in fields of Virginia. He was a great story teller, a hard worker, an inspiring teacher, at talented musician, a soldier, a proud father of four miracles, loving husband to an amazing woman, a believer, and rock to lean on. He was not perfect we all know that, but even those moments were redeemed by the way he loved his family, all of us.

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He was one of the first members of the family to welcome me into the clan and even wore a kilt at our wedding. He loved my husband like more than a nephew, he cuddled his great nephews tenderly as babies and played with them as little men, and always encouraged us to keep adventuring and to grow in faith.

A couple years ago we had the pleasure of spending a weekend with my mother-in-law, grandma and grandpa, and Uncle John and his family at Cove Point Lighthouse. It was a memorable weekend of bonding and being together as a family. That weekend is even more cherished now as one of our last adventures with him.

While we were there Aunt Laura and I had schemes to take their family photos, since they hadn’t had never had them done. I was honored of course and the session worked out perfectly, the colors the lighthouse, the beach, the love captured…all of it.

Those photos were my gift to their family and now they will help our cousins remember their father.

When my MIL called to check on me (I know she is the one that lost her brother!) she told me that my gift of photography was special and meaningful. She shared that one of the girls has been carrying my photos of her family in her hand all week, and that even though I can’t be with them my spirit will be there at the memorial through those images. That was a comfort and an overwhelming revelation.

What you do matters. The legacy you leave behind matters. How you love others matters.

Uncle John loved his family fiercely, this is the legacy he leaves behind, love. I’m so thankful to have felt that love and to have been there to capture it forever for his family.

With Love,

kdg

“We are told to let our light shine, and if it does, we won’t need to tell anybody it does. Lighthouses don’t fire cannons to call attention to their shining – they just shine.”  –Dwight L. Moody

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What binds your family?

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Photo credit: Katie

How many of us fall victim to talking AT our children instead of talking WITH our children? I do. I recognise this and certainly do my best, where I can, to carve out intentional moments for conversation with my 3 littles. But lets go a step further, what do you talk about with your kids? First thoughts may be conversations around them, their day, their school, their friends, their activities or possibly even their favourite foods.

A lovely friend of mine sent me this article on Wednesday “The Stories That Bind Us” by  which touches on just this. In this article the results of the research conducted showed that a child who knows more about their family, i.e.: the history of their mom and dad, their grandparents, their aunts, uncles and cousins etc, proved to be more resilient, more self-confidant with a better mental health and were ultimately happier.

“The answers have to do with a child’s sense of being part of a larger family,” – Dr. Duke.

The author encourages us to think of a family motto, I challenged my eldest with this task and this is what she came up with:

“Live kindly, love completely and protect ever after.”

I’ll take that, thank you.

Please give this quick article 10 minutes of your time today, it may encourage and inspire you as it did me. {article}

Cheers

la

Have the last word

No one stops to think what their last words may be to someone they love. No one stops to think about the last words written either. I do.

The reason…

My mother Meryll, passed away due to complications from surgery at the age of 49. I was 27. My mother never got to meet my children. They will never get to know their grandmother. The last written words I have to remember her by are found in a hand written journal from her time in hospital. When she had a pipe down her throat she used this journal to communicate with visitors and nurses. Sadly, these are the last words I have from her. Not words a daughter would ordinarily choose to keep, but precious words none-the-less. The content of some of her sentences are really hard to read but just seeing her tangible hand writing makes me feel closer to her.

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My brother Warren, Meryll, Me

I sit here almost 8 years later reflecting on my own little family and I am faced with the reality that tomorrow is not promised to anyone. I have so many questions for my mom and would give anything to be able to sit down with her, I would drink coffee and she would have her favourite Rooibos Honey tea, as she always did, and we would talk for hours. I would ask her not only questions about parenting, but questions about marriage, too. She died 3 months before my wedding. So many things were left unsaid. So many big issues in life I have had to figure out for myself, moments where having my mom around would have come in handy. No offence Dad, but advice on birthing, delivery, and postpartum really can only come from a mom 😉

My last spoken words to my mom were “I’ll speak to you soon” – I never did.

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Below is the last entry she ever wrote in that book, what bothers me more than her last few written words, is the fact that there is more than half the book left blank; so many things left unsaid and still so many pages left open, waiting to be filled with words never written.

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My plan is to leave my 3 kiddos a journal specific to each child. Of course when it comes to generic news I will most likely type something up and print out 3 copies to insert, dated, into each book. I hope that one day when they’re old and grey these books will be relevant, but if life has other plans and I have to check out early,  I’m glad I will be able to leave them a few of their mother’s words. Good words, positive ones, funny ones, inspired ones, words of love and devotions. Words of pure heart. Memories that all too quickly seem to fade.

So I encourage you, if you have ever wanted to pen something, or a collection of somethings, to your children, do it! Do it now! Online images will move down your timeline, out of site and out of mind, but classic handwritten words, are priceless.

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“Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart” – William Wordsworth

with love,

la