Thanksgiving…….

Well……another holiday is upon us.  Thanksgiving.  The time of food, family and being thankful.  It also marks the beginning of some difficult moments for those of us that do not have the physical presence of our loved ones…..especially our children.  Thanksgiving in my family when the girls were young were spent at Jeff’s sister’s house, Barbara or at his Mom’s in Lewisville, Texas.  As my children grew to adults and then married and had children of their own, it meant sharing holidays with John and I, their husband’s family, and seeing their Dad and Lisa.  That also meant they were eating several meals in one day!  I usually had the early meal and as the years went on we tried different things.  One year we had brunch!  A very non-traditional meal for this day.  Some years it was a full blown Thanksgiving meal where I cooked for days until my feet and legs hurt so bad from standing!  Some years it was ordering a smoked turkey.  Then there was the year that I made Alton Brown’s brine/turkey recipe (which is wonderful by the way!), but it calls to cook the turkey for the first 30 minutes or so at a very high heat and it involved having oil on the turkey which meant a kitchen filled with smoke!  LOL!  And for two years we were in Washington D.C. and spent one of those Thanksgiving holidays at Plymouth Rock, MA!

Last year was the beginning  of redefining the holidays without Elizabeth and the boys.  I wouldn’t say I have it figured out yet.  It is still a work in progress.  To be honest, my goal is to make it through the day.  Heck, I just want to make it through the next month.  How’s that for honest!  Anyone else feel this way?  I believe I am not alone in this.  So, this year, we will travel to San Antonio to spend it with John’s Mom and niece.  Jennifer and Lauren will spend it with their families.  I think we all are working on transforming these holidays as we continue to live out our lives separate from Elizabeth and the boys.  And I’ve come to the conclusion that “different” is fine.  My wound of grief provides me with a tenderness to others that are traveling this same road as I……or to those that walk among us that have no family to share a meal with.  I’ve learned on this journey that sometimes it’s better to do something totally different than trying to re-create what can never be until we are all together in heaven one day.

In my dining room this Thanksgiving, there is a chair.  It’s empty on purpose.  It is at the table as a remembrance to honor the memories, their physical lives that are no longer with us.   The butterflies symbolic of their new life in heaven.  In the Diem house we honor my daughter Elizabeth and her sons Fischer, Benjamin, and baby Hayes.  We also remember John’s grandson Cohen.  I like to think that in heaven, there is a gigantic table (round so everyone can see each other) with the most amazing food where all of our loved ones gather.  One day  I will join that table!

Thanksgiving 2013

And as difficult as these holidays can be, as my favorite worship song says:

The sun comes up, it’s a new day dawning
It’s time to sing Your song again
Whatever may pass, and whatever lies before me
Let me be singing when the evening comes

And on this day,  I do lift my hands to the one that blessed me with so much!    So, on this Thanksgiving, I am thankful for my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who bought and paid for me at such a heavy price by dying on a cross.  Because of that, I have been redeemed and I know who holds me in the palm of his hand.    I am thankful for his grace and his tender mercies.  I am thankful for the blessings he has placed in my life.   I am thankful that one day I will meet him and there will be no more tears!

These days as sorrowful as they are at times are but a “vapor” as the Bible says and I believe in all my heart that God isn’t finished with me, Jennifer or Lauren in telling this story of Elizabeth and the boys.

So, as you gather around the table this holiday, don’t sweat the small stuff.  This can be a stressful time for families.  And as the last 15 months have taught me, it’s all small stuff……..it really is.  Hug everyone a little more, tell them you love them…….and always, always hold on to the one that will make it all anew one day.  We do not know what tomorrow brings.  Life is short.  Sometimes really short.  May God place people in your lives that have no place to spend Thanksgiving.  May you have the gift of mercy and grace to invite them to your family table just as we have been invited to the Savior’s table.

Heavenly Father:

I ask for your grace and mercy this holiday season.  For those families that have empty chairs at the table, please bring them your peace and comfort as only you can do.   Send us “winks” from above as reminders of our children’s lives and that they are safe in your care until we join them one day.   For those that have family members that are in harms way keeping us safe, I ask for your protection and a special touch of your mighty love.  Thank you for your Son and the promise of everlasting life.  Amen.

May each of you have a blessed Thanksgiving.  Wherever you are, whatever your circumstance, make the most of this day.  I know I am.

Blessings,

Julie

A Bur Oak tree in Old Settler’s Park, Round Rock, TX

IMG_1381On October 19th, 2013, my Beloved and I went to the pavilion where 28 families gathered to honor loved ones through planting trees.  The Christi Center, in Austin, Texas plants a tree grove annually to honor our family members that we are grieving.  Before we went to the tree grove to see our trees, several family members spoke.  I found out that the symbol of the Christi Center that they use with the bereaved is the zebra!  You see, grieving is a lot like being a zebra in a herd of horses.  Your stripes set you apart and make you different now, but everyone still expects you to act like a horse.  The Christi Center is a safe place… to “show your stripes” and be with other zebras who understand. To honor your loved ones, the Christi Center plants trees annually and on October 19, 2013, they planted 28 trees.   The types of trees and numbers that were planted are:

  • Red Oak: 1
  • Chinquapin Oak:  1
  • Crepe Myrtle:  3
  • Live Oak:  6
  • Cedar Elm:  6
  • Monterey Oak:  6
  • Bur Oak:  6

I couldn’t wait to see what kind of tree was selected for my daughter and grandsons!  When I opened the memorial packet, I found that they had selected a Bur Oak to honor Elizabeth and the boys.  I had seen Bur Oaks before, but I didn’t know that much about them.  As I researched the Quercus macrocarpa a.k.a. the “Bur Oak” I found it was a perfect tree for them!  First, Bur Oaks are large!  Growing up to 100 feet and has one of the most massive oak trunks with diameters of up to 10 feet.  Bur Oaks commonly live to be 200-300 years old!  The bark is a medium gray and somewhat rugged.  I love that adjective……..”somewhat rugged”. The leaves are large and the acorns are very large.  The Bur Oak is a great tree here in Texas.  Our hot and dry weather here is not a problem for these oaks.  They can grow 18-24 inches and can grow as much as 3 feet a year. Reading about the Bur Oak, I thought it was a PERFECT representation of Elizabeth, Fischer, Benjamin and Hayes.  It is a quick growing oak tree……just like 3 little boys!  The bark is rugged…….just like 3 little boys that were growing up to be courageous young men!  An oak has deep roots……just like my daughter.  She always knew who she was in her own skin…..even as a young girl.  Because of that, she was resilient.  She knew what kind of wife, mother, daughter, sister, aunt and friend she wanted to be.  She wasn’t perfect……but she was amazing none the less.  The Bur Oak is large…..taking in all that the world will provide.  Elizabeth was a lot like that too…..remember her bracelet?  LIVE BIG?  How great is that is a tree is going to grow big just like she lived her life.  Bur Oaks become a great shade tree in the hot months in Texas.  I love this quality of the tree…..providing respite to those taking a moment at the base of the tree……My daughter and grandsons legacy providing shade and protection.    And lastly, the Bur Oak is long living…..they can live up to 200-300 years!  And even though that is a long time…..my daughter and grandsons live forever with the King of Kings and Lord of Lords and I will be with them one day!  AMEN!

The Christi Center also placed a beautiful monument in the tree grove to honor the families, their loved ones and to dedicate the tree grove. It is a place in this world that testifies to the life of our loved one’s and the special meaning to those of us that grieve their temporary absence from us.

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The Christi Center also had hand written hearts on our tree.  Here are the pictures from Elizabeth’s tree: IMG_2342IMG_2341IMG_2340IMG_2343

I had the pleasure of going to watch Tyler Perry live on stage in Connecticut for one of his Madea plays.  Madea (aka Tyler Perry) gave a “tree analogy” that I thought was appropriate for this post.

I have this tree analogy when I think of people in my life, be it friends, family, acquaintances, employees, co-workers, whomever…They are all placed inside what I call my tree test. It goes like this:

LEAF PEOPLE Some people come into your life and they are like leaves on a tree. They are only there for a season. You can’t depend on them or count on them because they are weak and only there to give you shade. Like leaves, they are there to take what they need and as soon as it gets cold or a wind blows in your life they are gone. You can’t be angry at them, it’s just who they are.

BRANCH PEOPLE There are some people who come into your life and they are like branches on a tree. They are stronger than leaves, but you have to be careful with them. They will stick around through most seasons, but if you go through a storm or two in your life it’s possible that you could lose them. Most times they break away when it’s tough. Although they are stronger than leaves, you have to test them out before you run out there and put all your weight on them. In most cases they can’t handle too much weight. But again, you can’t be mad with them, it’s just who they are.

ROOT PEOPLE If you can find some people in your life who are like the roots of a tree then you have found something special. Like the roots of a tree, they are hard to find because they are not trying to be seen. Their only job is to hold you up and help you live a strong and healthy life. If you thrive, they are happy. They stay low key and don’t let the world know that they are there. And if you go through an awful storm they will hold you up. Their job is to hold you up, come what may, and to nourish you, feed you and water you.

Just as a tree has many limbs and many leaves, there are few roots. Look at your own life. How many leaves, branches and roots do you have? What are you in other people’s lives? THANK GOD FOR YOUR ROOTS! You may want to call them today or share this message with them and attach your own note saying, “thanks for being my root”.” – Tyler Perry

My hope and prayer is that God will continue to use Elizabeth, Fischer, Ben and Hayes as roots for others that knew them.  I know they are for me.  Their roots much like their Bur Oak tree will grow deep…..their legacy will be watered, fed and tended by those that love them.  They are reminders about what’s important and what’s not…….don’t sweat the small stuff…..and it’s all small stuff! My daughter and grandsons roots have taught me about God, his promises, my faith, his grace and his mercy.  Just like their tree, may my roots in my Lord and my “root people” also continue to grow.  When the branches need to be pruned to continue that growth, may I rest in the faith of that pruning.

I look forward to resting under a large bur oak one day…..reading scripture, having a picnic and enjoying time with those “roots” in my life.  If you would ever like to visit this special place, please let me know and I would love to show you and share that moment. Here are some pictures of their tree and some of my deep roots!

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My daughter and grandsons Bur Oak tree! Grow tall and deep…….

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My Beloved……

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Me by Elizabeth and the boy’s tree

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Jennifer and Keith Pascar

To God be the glory and be sure and thank your “roots”!

Julie