End of Summer Update…..

Well, the school supplies in the stores along with the back to school clothes and sales mean that children are getting ready to go back to school.  This time of year also means I take Ava to do some shopping, which usually means the Justice store.  It’s hard to believe that she goes in 4th grade this year.  Wow.  Where has the time gone?  Eli will turn 2 in November and Lauren and Daniel will welcome the birth of another baby in October.  They have decided to go “old school”, and yes, that makes me feel old, and wait until the baby is born to know if it is a boy or girl.  So we will anxiously await.  The other great news is that my oldest daughter Jennifer and her hubby Keith are also expecting a baby!  This will be a February 2017 baby, and drum roll, they didn’t want to go “old school” and it’s a GIRLCamryn Elizabeth.  So, blessed, blessed, blessed.  And of course such an honor to see Elizabeth’s name carried forward in another generation.

BrothersAnd this time of year also brings me to think of Fischer, Benjamin and Hayes.  It’s hard to believe that Fischer would be starting 2nd grade this fall and Benjamin would be going into 1st grade if they were here.  And I think wow, so much time has gone by.   They were 3 and 2 when they left us.  Elizabeth would be getting school supplies, backpacks, clothing, shoes and excited to see her boys in Salado elementary.  But that would not be their story….their lives were meant to tell another story.  No report cards, field days, baseball teams, or college.  Their legacies are carried out in our hearts in how we continue to honor and remember them.  How our lives have changed because of their life and their death.  Which brings me to my next thought……

Some will be sad for the start of this school year, as your little ones start school for the first time or transition from elementary, to middle school or to high school. Please don’t be sad.  I want to encourage you to be joyful of the gift you have been given of seeing them start another school year, or a transitional milestone.  Remember, there are many that would love to have one more school year, one more opportunity, one more morning, an opportunity to buy school pencils, backpacks and lunchboxes and experience the craziness of the first day of school.

So, when those aggravations and frustrations come with raising “littles” or teens whether it’s because they don’t want to go to bed, wear the clothes they are suppose to,  they don’t want to eat, the buttons they push or things that exasperate you, please remember to put those things in perspective.  I would suggest you be thankful even in those moments.

I don’t say this for pity or sadness.  I have learned to experience grief and joy in my circumstances…..and trust me it is well.  But, my perspective means I want to encourage others to live in the moment and before you lose your temper because of a discipline issue or other frustration, please stop and be thankful  for those moments.  Remember, there are families that would give everything they have to experience those unpleasant moments again.  This is a way we can honor the memory of Fischer, Ben and Hayes and how their life and their death has made a difference.  To be thankful, truly thankful for the time we have and the opportunities we have been given with our children.   Their life and physical death has taught me that.    Something I hadn’t really learned before.   My hope and prayer is that they live on as a testimony for everyone to live life to the fullest everyday.   To show up.   To be present.   To love fiercely. To have grace.

It really is about gratitude.  Find it.  In everything.

Choose Joy…….

Until next time,

Julie

 

4 Years……

Lizz 8 121120094 years have come.  1,460 days since that horrific phone call when I heard the words no parent ever wants to hear:  “They are gone Mom, they are all gone.”  Leading up to this date, I have come to expect the sleepless nights, staying up till you are so exhausted that you have to fall asleep.  The inability to focus at work on difficult critical thinking problems and there is just this heaviness that hangs on you.   So I have become better at listening to that inner voice and have found that having a project to stay busy and keeping the day normal as possible is helpful for me.

With each passing year, the longer I walk this grief journey I become more determined to reflect on the joy and my gratefulness of having them in my life to begin with.  It’s a tightrope for sure, not being pulled into darkness.  But as I have learned grief and joy both co-exist in our hearts and even though there are tough days, I choose to focus on the amazing gift she and the boys were to begin with.  The last two years, I have distributed Random Acts of Kindness cards and it has warmed my heart to hear the stories of kindness people have done and shared the story about my blue eyed daughter and grandsons.  I hope people will continue this with me, because it is the joy and gratitude side of the tight rope I always want to lean.

So, when this grief visitor comes to visit me every year I try to approach it in what does this loss teach me this year?  You see I think this journey of loss and healing is sort of like an onion.  You peel yourself back each year, with each anniversary date, birthday, holiday.  I have chosen to be open to those moments and see what God and my heart is going to show me.

And what has this anniversary taught me?  Gratitude.  Gratitude that of all the women in the world, Lizz called me Mom and the boys called me Nana.  And even though days like today are tough,  I consider it one of my greatest blessings.

I also want to help others that have experienced loss.  I want in some small way to change our culture where bereaved parents can share about the memories of their children without the judging, the pity and shame.  And so, I choose to talk about grief and loss and I talk about her and the boys, in hope of giving others a place to do the same.  Because it is that place where healing begins.  Not allowing those opportunities simply deepens our pain.  I get that it’s uncomfortable.  And you don’t know what to say.  You don’t have to say anything.  You just have to be willing to sit with someone in the mess…..in the uncomfortableness of it all.  Sometimes it means we are sad, we don’t understand why we feel what we feel……why we can’t remember things, why it’s hard to focus.  But if we are blessed to have family, friends and even strangers model for us that we can survive great loss…….and even thrive, that is a wonderful, precious and beautiful thing.  I pray that God will use me and my brokenness to help others.  I believe in all of my being, this is part of why I am here….one of why I walk this earth.

You see, the other day, I went into Pier 1.  I love Pier 1 and they have Sunflower dishes this season and I know I needed to go see them.  I was checking out, and the woman commented on my wallet and purse (which also has sunflowers) and that I clearly liked them.  I saw this as an opportunity to share the story of Lizz and the boys.  I have come to a place where I no longer break down in a hot mess when I talk about them.  The woman behind the counter began to cry and told me that she very recently lost her daughter to brain cancer.  She was diagnosed and quickly gone.  Her daughter was her only child.  I realized then, this was no longer just a check out, it was a God appointment.  I walked behind the counter and we both hugged and cried.  She asked me how long it had been, and I knew then what an opportunity to serve this mom.  She said:  Oh, you give me hope.  Hope that there is life after this terrible loss, and hope that it gets better.  I told her it does.  God’s grace and tender mercies will provide her with what she needs.  But the hole never goes away….and what you decide to do with it will make all the difference.

And then I sat in my car and thanked God for the opportunity and I heard him impress on my heart:  “I know it hurts.  It will always hurt some.  But it is the hurt where you can love and reach out like no one can.”

And so, I try (and don’t get me wrong I fail….a lot) to remember that God does his best work in our hurt and our brokenness if we let him.  We are the light in this world to others to know their pain, in a personal way, to connect, to share hope and display His glory.

Do I have it all figured out?  OH MY NO!  I anticipate on significant days like today when the grief visitor shows up in full force, I continue to learn.  But no matter what the lesson grief has for me, I always want to show that LOVE WINS and God’s grace is sufficient.

Some things I do every anniversary.  There are memorial wreaths I make.  They always involve sunflowers and super heroes.  John and I take them to the cemetery and we spend time cleaning their headstones and the special place around it.  We go very early, since it gets so hot this time of year.

 

I then try to stay busy and love hearing about the things people are doing in memory of Lizz and the boys.  It brings such joy to me on such a difficult day.  So thank you to everyone that embraced the opportunity to participate in random acts of kindness on this day….to give of yourself.

 

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I place memorials in the Salado and Lexington paper.  Honoring them in two places where she and the boys grew up and loved.

 

3rd Anniversary Salado revised

3rd anniversary Memorial Lexington revised

This year, I did something different.  I will give away a sunflower wreath with three ladybugs later this evening.  And I will work on making another 12 sunflower wreaths that people ordered.  Making wreaths have been a healing and rewarding way for me to honor Lizz and the boys.

I close with this years video.  Many of you have seen these pictures.  But the music has changed over the years.  If you didn’t know Lizz and the boys, I hope this video helps you feel like you do.  For those that did, I hope you enjoy their smiles, dimples and those blue eyes as we remember……

Until next time,

Julie

 

 

 

Elizabeth Herro Dowdy 2016 Scholarship

IMG_3832On Friday, May 27, 2016, I attended the Methodist Children’s Home (MCH) graduation ceremony at First United Methodist Church in Waco Texas.  I wanted to support the students that in some small way I feel connected to.    You see, this was the first year that we would award Elizabeth’s named scholarship since endowing it in December 2015.  There were 31 graduates this year from MCH.  The largest graduating class to date.  The University of Texas has a charter school on the MCH property for the residents.  Trey Oakley from MCH had called earlier in the week to tell me who had been selected for Elizabeth’s scholarship.  He shared with me that “she” played drums in the praise band, had a part time job, and described her as having a free spirit.  She had taken dual credit courses and would be attending McClennan Community College in the fall with a track to attend Baylor University.  I loved when he described her as having a free spirit!

So, I drive to Waco, grab a bulletin and find a seat.  I open the bulletin and find that the recipient of the Elizabeth Herro Dowdy Scholarship is also the Salutatorian!  But the ceremony was a time of overwhelming emotion that is hard to describe.  So much healing and hours of wreath making had come to this moment and the tears began to flow and my MCH family that I was sitting next to began passing me Kleenex.

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So, please meet the 2016 Elizabeth Herro Dowdy Scholarship recipient Maegan (May) Wells!    I enjoyed her Salutatorian speech where she shared the three things she had wanted to accomplish while she was at MCH:  1.  Build a better relationship with God.  2.  Build a better relationship with her parents.  3.  Be happy with herself.   She felt she had succeeded in reaching those goals.   And the next line in her speech made me smile:  She was happy that she had been her crazy self throughout her time at MCH. 

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Salutatorian address

 

 

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May receiving her diploma

 

I met her briefly after the ceremony and I will be praying for her and God’s blessing on her life in this next phase.

So, the keeper of my daughter’s legacy begins yet another verse with this young lady.    The emotions I felt that afternoon are hard to describe…….but I felt my heart was going to burst.  So much of God’s amazing grace, so much gratitude, so many blessings, flooding my heart and yet the hole in my heart for the loss of my amazing blue eyed 25 year old daughter was also very present.  But on this specific day, it was if my heart had to be broken to feel the grace, the gratitude, and the joy.  And it further affirmed for me that …..God is good.   Yes, even in the darkest moments.  And He is faithful to his promises.  One of those promises is to bring beauty from the ashes……May is definitely part of that promise and part of the beauty that he has brought from my loss.

To take a phrase from Elizabeth’s bracelet…… LIVE Big May Wells, LIVE BIG!

Congratulations!

Julie

 

 

The Fischer, Benjamin and Hayes Dowdy 2016 Memorial Scholarship……

2016 Salado Scholarship

Tonight was a great honor and blessing to award the Fischer, Benjamin and Hayes Dowdy Memorial Scholarship to a graduating Salado High School Senior.  This years scholarship went to a graduate who was one of two Salado seniors that received … Continue reading