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
Today Fischer you turn six. An age where you would be in kindergarten and could have started playing baseball with your little friends. It’s hard to believe you have celebrated 3 birthdays in heaven since you left us. So how will I honor you on this day?
As has been my custom, I have run birthday memorial ads in the Salado Village Voice and the Lexington Leader.
I will visit the earthly place that bears a testament to your life. I will lay your birthday wreath.
I will spend some time remembering your joy, and your amazing spirit. I will eat lots of green veggies and fruit today because you thought if you ate enough green food you would turn into the HULK! I will enjoy green grapes which was one of your faves and eat them from the cluster of grapes. You always were insistent to pull them from the stems! I made a wreath for my front door to honor your fascination with the HULK:
Here are some of my favorite pictures of you:
You loved lizards and frogs, and you loved the movie “The Sandlot”. You loved running the bases, swinging a bat and throwing a ball.
I’m sure your momma has an amazing party planned for you. She always had the best parties for you and your brother. I can only imagine the guest list! I miss you so much Fischman. We all do. Even though we were blessed to have you with us for only 1,397 days…..I am so thankful for that time you were part of our lives this side of heaven. I also know you will be there with your brothers and your mom to welcome me when I am called home.
I close with your birthday video. The song I chose is by Mark Harris, “When We’re Together”. It was featured in the movie Courageous.
Love you Fischman……Forever.
Forever in my heart
Forever in my thoughts
Forever with me
This week, I experienced another first. Fischer would have started Kindergarten this week. The long awaited day that Fischer so looked forward to would have arrived. He would have become a Salado Eagle! Since Fischer’s birthday is 10/1 and he would turn 6 soon, he would not have started school last fall like some of his friends and playmates did. I loved seeing all the school pictures, my granddaughter’s 2nd grade school picture, sharing in all the joy for this new beginning with friends and family and yet there is also this tug on my heart. What would Fischer have thought about this week? What would Elizabeth have felt? There would have been the craziness of getting school supplies, new shoes, clothes, packing lunches and not being able to sleep due to all the excitement! Ben surely would have missed his big brother and would assume that role with Hayes while Fischer was at school. Oh how I would have loved to have seen a picture of his first day of Kindergarten! What would he look like now two years later?
And I have now come to recognize this is the dichotomy of the bereaved. These events have a double edge to them. And through this, I choose joy in celebrating with friends and family the accomplishments and new beginnings of their children, and yet there is the absence of these milestones that I will not get to experience with Fischer, Ben and Hayes. I am very aware of those that will and do say: “Julie, get over it…..do you really have to share this, or think it?” And if I am going to be true to myself and to this blog about my grief journey, the answer is yes. It is something many if not all of us parents think about when the unthinkable happens. We are forever changed by it and therefore these events cross our mind. I choose to handle these events by acknowledging them, embracing them, and honoring them.
To other Mom’s who lament that your children are growing up or going off to college…….I encourage you to choose JOY! Each year that you start a new school year, move your child to college or celebrate another milestone is a tremendous blessing and for those of us that will not get to experience these events with some of our children/grandchildren so wish we could. You see, many of these events highlight for us our loss. My prayer for you if you are struggling as your children are moving out, growing up too fast, starting school, college or somewhere in between, is that you make a conscious decision to choose joy. Be intentional in everything you do with your children. Learn to soak in every day that is given to you, yes, even in the chaos…the good and the bad…..because dear one each day is a precious gift.
So, today to honor this first for the Fischman, I will lay this wreath and ask Jesus to hug him for me until I can one day.
I don’t know if there is “school” in heaven. I don’t know if we know everything and don’t need to “learn” when we get there…..but this I do know……they are in the presence of the best teacher EVER……Jesus Christ….and therefore I choose JOY. The joy that comes from a place of confidence…..that I know who holds me and my future and it is the one that has inscribed me in the palm of his hand! (Isaiah 49:16).
Tonight was the 2014 Awards Ceremony at Salado High School for the Senior class. This also meant that the Diem family would award the 1st Fischer, Benjamin and Hayes Dowdy Memorial Scholarship! I had the amazing honor to share about my grandsons……..Fischer, Benjamin and Hayes. I told them about how Fischer always talked about becoming a Salado Eagle….and how Fischer would have started kindergarten this fall. I shared how they loved Friday night lights in this small community and John and I created this scholarship not only to honor their memory but to create a lasting legacy long after we are gone. I celebrate the thought that there is a small part of my grandsons legacy that is joined to the dreams of a high school senior in the high school they would have graduated from. I couldn’t be more thrilled with this years recipient! He was so respectful, gracious, and appreciative. His family attends Salado United Methodist Church and knew Elizabeth and the boys. He is a band student and will be attending Lamar University to pursue a music degree. And when I saw him for the first time as I read his name….of which he was not aware that he had been selected for the scholarship…… it was priceless to see his face when I announced his name…….I smiled and my heart was full….. in fact overflowing. You see, he is a blonde blue eyed young man. So, it is with great honor and blessing, I introduce you to Chase Manning of the 2014 Salado High School graduating class who is the recipient of the 2014 Fischer, Benjamin and Hayes Dowdy Memorial Scholarship!
Tonight was a testament how a broken heart and the love of your daughter/grandchildren can make a difference in someone’s life. I look forward to following Chase’s college career and I congratulate his parents for raising an amazing young man! Lastly, I want to say that what a terrific class of graduates there were in Salado! For a 2A school, this graduating class had a total of $2,433,671.50 in scholarship funds granted! 2.4 MILLION! I saw two students take their enlistment oath to become Marine’s tonight….the valedictorian was awarded his appointment to the Air Force Academy, another student had a 4 year ROTC scholarship at Baylor University, there was the $20,000 scholarship to Texas State, and the list of scholarships and awards went on and on. What an amazing show of support and commitment from this community that my daughter so dearly loved! John and I are blessed to now have an active role to pay it forward. Lastly, my congratulations to Chase! You were the perfect recipient this year to honor the memory and lives of three little boys………
Yes, there is beauty that rises from the ashes! Romans 8:28 Amen!
So, today is Fischer’s birthday….his second birthday that he will celebrate in heaven. It’s interesting how we bereaved mark the passing of time by the events that occurred on “that day”. So, today I want to remember Fischer, honor his precious life and how much love and joy was jam packed in those 3 and 3/4 years that he was here with us.
Fischer, I can remember the day you were born like it was yesterday. You developed breathing problems and you were never aware of the fact that you got to ride in a helicopter shortly after you were born! They transported you from Round Rock to Temple. You also cried a lot for the first six months………colic was always very present those first several months. I remember Elizabeth calling me when John and I were in Washington, DC and she was in tears. She felt so inadequate because she couldn’t get Fischer to stop crying. I remember her asking me: “Mom, am I bad Mom that I just put him in his crib? I didn’t know what else to do! Nothing I was doing was helping!”. As a young 21 year old Mom a constant infant crying with colic can be so stressful. When Fischer started to crawl it wasn’t in the “traditional” sense of what you think about when babies crawl. Fischer’s crawling was sitting up with one leg tucked in under him and lifting himself up with his arms and “scooting”. He became very proficient at this and was very quick! I remember his leg would become badly chaffed from the constant dragging of his leg that Elizabeth would need to keep long pants on him in the summertime! Fischer was also a climber! He loved to climb on everything! This would soon give way to jumping from couch to couch, couch to coffee table, couch to floor with superman cape!
Fischer would also become very close to his cousin Ava. Fischer pronounced her name when he was younger with a short vowel ‘a’……like Ave Maria. He adored his Ava. He always said he wanted to marry Ava. And he adored Ava’s mommy, my middle daughter Lauren. Lauren was Lolly to the boys. I remember, I was going to brave taking all three grandkids to the movies (yes at the same time!) and I was meeting Lauren (aka Lolly) at the Chick- Fil- A to pick up Ava. When we turned into the parking lot, Fischer started hollering: Nana! That’s Lolly! That’s her car! Nana! LOLLY!
Fischer didn’t give out hugs and affection often…..that just wasn’t his style. He was the type you had to wrestle to get a hug. But when you did get a Fischer hug it was so very special. There was this excitement of life to Fischer. The last Christmas that they were with us, John and I loaded up the car with all three grandkids and went to Burnet for the Bethlehem re-enactment they have there every year. Fischer LOVED the Roman soldiers and wanted to follow them around. Ava didn’t like it at all and just wanted to go home…..and Ben chose to take it all in by sitting on John’s shoulders. Fischer ended up going back 3 times for cookies and hot chocolate. You see, as only a blue eyed little boy could do, he had charmed the nice ladies at the concession stand in a 30 second interaction. He was quite proud of his achievement! Grinning from ear to ear.
Fischer, I can’t help but think you would have been disappointed to find out that you couldn’t start kindergarten this year since your birthday is past 9/1. I’m sure that rule would have made no sense to you. You would have seen your other friends from your Mother’s Day Out program start school. You would have also loved all the superhero movies that came out this past year the Superman movie, IronMan 3 and would be looking forward to the new Thor movie coming in November……but then I remember that you are in heaven! You get to see all kind of heroes everyday! Joshua, Caleb, Gideon, and of course the hero that saved the world……..Jesus!
Fischer I miss you so……we all do…….so, Jesus, please sing Happy Birthday and hug him for us today. Please kiss Ben and baby Hayes. And hug my daughter Elizabeth and tell them all we love and miss them and we hold tightly to the promise of an eternity together. If I know my daughter, she is planning a birthday party like no other! She loved planning your birthday parties!
So Fischer, today I will lay a birthday wreath that I made for you to honor your birthday.
I also placed a memorial in the Salado and Lexington papers…….
I also updated your birthday video for today to remember your eyes of blue, that amazing spirit and that awesome smile……..
I love you Fischer….and you live in my heart…….along with my Lord, my daughter, Ben and Hayes.
Just like most small Texas communities, Friday Night Lights means you attend your hometown high school football games. The Sam and Elizabeth Dowdy family was no different. The boys loved going to the home football games. Fischer was excited to become a “Salado Eagle”. Elizabeth shared with me that one night Fischer wasn’t where he was supposed to be, and next thing she knew, he was running out on the field with the cheerleaders! So to honor Elizabeth’s love of Salado, honor the memory of the boys, the school they would have attended, the academic and sports programs they would have participated in and the school they would have graduated from (Salado high school) we wanted to provide a legacy for Fischer, Benjamin and Hayes.
Therefore, I am excited to announce that John and I have created the “Fischer, Benjamin and Hayes Dowdy Memorial Scholarship”. This scholarship will be awarded for the first time in April/May 2014. The student that will be awarded this scholarship will be a high school senior at Salado High School, have a 3.0 minimum GPA and attend a college/university.
The scholarship is managed through the Salado Education Foundation. They are designated as a 501C organization, so any donations to their scholarship are tax deductible. I have started the scholarship with funds that I have received from people purchasing my wreaths! If you are interested in one of my wreath creations please contact me. I will make the wreath for the cost of supplies and a donation to their scholarship fund.
So, if you are looking for a way to honor Fischer, Benjamin and Hayes Dowdy, for their birthdays, holidays, anniversary remembrance, etc., I would ask you to consider making a donation to their memorial scholarship. You can make a donation to:
Salado Education Foundation
PO Box 458
Salado, TX 76571
Please indicate “Dowdy memorial scholarship” on the memo line of your donation.
I hope to have some fund raising opportunities in the upcoming years to make this an endowed scholarship so that their legacy will always live on………
“Honoring the life and spirit of my angel daughter—being the “the keeper of her legacy”—was not what I had signed up for as a father. But it’s what I got. Being a lifeline to bereaved families and empowering young women has been a way of turning my pain into love—and then giving that love away. Over time, it became my mission.”
I absolutely love that! It puts into words my feelings and strong desire these days…….to be the keeper of Elizabeth’s legacy. As her mother, I consider that a great honor and responsibility. I obviously didn’t chose this path, but it is the journey I have been asked to walk. It is true that you make a decision that these types of life events will either destroy you, define you, OR you can use it for good and perhaps with God’s blessing, something bigger than yourself or more than you could ever imagine happen! I therefore have made a deliberate choice to be a light of hope and encouragement to others and bring glory to my awesome God! May my broken heart be made bigger to make a difference in the lives of others and to tell Elizabeth’s story.
To give my blog readers some history…….Her Dad, Jeff Herro is a Texas alumni, Class of 81. He was in the Longhorn Band……one of the many Tuba’s. I went back to UT after a 25 year absence and graduated in May 2004 with my BA and a major in History. I am a Texas Ex Life Member. I made all my daughters go to my departmental and campus wide commencement. I told them that if I sat through all of theirs, they could sit through both of mine. One of the great things when you go back to college after such a long absence, is that you get to purchase a spouse sports package. So, in the fall of 2003, I bought a “spouse” sports package and Elizabeth attended the home games with me. We sat on the student side behind the band. Those are awesome memories for me. We would get to campus early, eat at Kerby Lane Café (pancakes!) on Guadalupe, shop, go to the Texas Union, and walk around campus. And of course, before and during the game, guys sitting next to us in the stands would flirt with her. I will never forget, a couple of young men asked her what class she was and Elizabeth smugly told them “a Junior”. The young men replied that they too were “Juniors”. I then leaned over and told them that she was a Junior in HIGH SCHOOL! They turned around and never talked to us again! Elizabeth told me: Geez, Mom….thanks. I laugh thinking about that now.
Several years later she would marry into a family that loved the Longhorns and held season football tickets. This would also be an opportunity to share their love of the Longhorns with their boys. They relished in the tail-gating, teaching them to flash the “hook ’em horns” sign, the band marching in, Bevo, in all things burnt orange! So, today, as a keeper of her legacy, I want to announce, that in honor of Elizabeth, Fischer and Benjamin and their love of the University of Texas, the Texas Longhorns, and the Longhorn Band, I had three memorial bricks placed at the Texas Exes Alumni Center! They were placed last week and I went to look at them today and couldn’t wait to share!
It seemed the perfect way to honor that part of their life. They are on the “home”/west side of the DKR Memorial stadium across the street at the Texas Exes Alumni Center. Below are the pictures:
You will notice that the bricks are in the same position as their resting place in the Salado cemetery. Elizabeth between her two precious boys…..Fischer on the left and Benjamin on the right. Some have asked me why doing this was important…….my answer? My heart tells me it’s right. It is a testament to their lives…….that they were loved, they made a difference and this is a way for a momma to honor and remember them. Always, always remember.
If you are on campus and want to find their bricks, go to the alumni center across the street from the home side of the stadium and look for this statue:
Stand in front of the center’s double doors. Look to the left of the double doors behind the raised brick wall on your left, you should see this:
You will find Fischer, Elizabeth and Benjamin’s Memorial bricks in row F2, column K:
So, if you attend a home Longhorn Football Game or down at the campus, I hope you go by the Alumni Center, pay your respects and think of Elizabeth, Fischer and Benjamin.
And lastly, to honor those memories, I created a video with those icons and reminders of this great place that Elizabeth and her family loved. I have included pictures of the University of Texas, music by the Longhorn Band and pictures of Elizabeth and the boys enjoying traditions of being Longhorns fans!
Here is Elizabeth and Hayes’ Longhorn wreath:
The Eyes of Texas are upon you…….
Until next time,
When I decided to speak at my daughter’s service, when I went to bed the night before, I had no idea what I was going to say. I prayed that the words would come and boy did they! At 3 a.m., I sat straight up in bed. I startled John and told him I had to go to the computer to write down the thoughts that were pouring into my mind. They were coming so quickly, that I was typing phrases. The words that follow are what I finished and walked up to the microphone and delivered. I was to speak after Jeff Herro, Elizabeth’s Dad. I prayed that Jesus would give me the words to share their story, to glorify him and others to see him, and to express in a few minutes the life of my daughter and grandsons. And so, I walked up to the steps with my typed notes, Elizabeth’s copy of Grace Based Parenting, and my last Mother’s Day card that I would ever receive from Elizabeth. Below is the copy of my eulogy that I typed up and spoke from. I have copied it as it was one year ago, so please excuse any typos or grammar issues.
I remember before I started that I told the audience and specifically her Sephora family, that Elizabeth would be telling all of us that our faces and make-up were a “hot mess”. Which in turn got some chuckles. And then I began:
I’m not sure how you compress a life as big and full as Elizabeth in just a few minutes. I hope I get to spend the rest of my life hearing wonderful stories from you all about my daughter and my grandsons Fischer and Benjamin and how they touched your life. So, I’m going to try to share some things that I knew to be true about my daughter and appreciate your indulgence.
Elizabeth Anne Herro was born in Austin Texas at Seton Medical Center on 2/27/1987 the youngest of three daughters….all 8 lbs and 14.5 ounces. She had one dimple…..just like Ben. She had a birthmark on her thigh that was in the shape of a heart. She always told people that was where God kissed her. She had such joy as a child, much like Ben and Fischer. As the baby of the Herro family, she loved being the center of attention. She entered a room and within a minute everyone was aware of her presence. And as many of you know, she had the most amazing blue eyes. Strangers would come up to me and comment on her beautiful eyes. Her Nana Herro called them “pools of blue”.
I was blessed that Lizz and I talked almost everyday. It was usually very early. You see, in the Dowdy household, mayhem started very early. Usually by 6 a.m. Her thought was if she was up, she thought everyone else should be. We talked about the mundane things like potty training to Fischer’s amazing spirit. Those almost daily conversations would abruptly end with something like: Fischer STOP! Ben….STOP! Mom, I gotta go! Talk to you later!
She recently shared with me that some people really “got” Fischer. To those that embraced Fischer’s spirit, they received an amazing blessing. One person that “got” Fischer, was his Lolly……Lizz’s sister, Lauren. She was Lolly to Fischer and Ben. She was their partner in crime and they all reveled in her playfulness.
I found out very quickly with my grandsons, that God writes on their heart to be warriors, to be brave, courageous, and fearless. Elizabeth understood that importance and fostered that. They both loved super heroes. Spider Man, Iron Man, Captain America, Thor and the Incredible Hulk. I am so thrilled that they are spending eternity with the true super hero of all time, our Lord, Jesus.
Samuel taught Fischer at a very young age the importance of always watching out for your baby brother. Fischer would always introduce people to Ben and declare: This is Ben and he is my brother. This was something that Sam wanted to model from his relationship with his brother Daniel. Fischer was Ben’s bubba.
Benjamin Samuel was the cuddle bug. Shy at first, huge smile, dimple, and those pools of blue eyes. May I always remember their laughter and Ben’s shrieks of joy for the rest of my days.
Hayes William Dowdy was already very loved and special. Her early pregnancy had several scares. But the amazing Dowdy that was inside would also be a warrior and was due to come into the world early January 2013.
Lizz recently made a post on Facebook about a book that she had read 5 or 6 times. John and I heard Dr. Tim Kimmel speak about Grace Based Parenting and gave her a copy of the book. As I thumbed through the worn copy of her book, I wanted to share some of what she loved about the book. The guiding principles were the needs of our children to have a secure love, significant purpose and a strong hope. It spoke about having a home of honor. Homes of honor to see the other person’s time, their gifts, their uniqueness and their dreams as gifts to be cherished. The book spoke of instilling a sense of significant purpose. And to be concerned about the hearts of your children and not the exterior. To honor Lizz and the boys, if you are raising young children and would like to raise your children in a grace centered home, Sam, John and I would like to give you a book to help you on that journey. Grace Based Parenting books are available on a table when you leave the service.
She commented to me several times how much the movie Courageous touched her and Sam. She told me that she wanted brave and courageous men, fearless men, that loved God. If you walk in Ben and Fischer’s play room there are small chalkboards behind shelves where Lizz sent messages to her children everyday. Messages that say: Jesus Saves, He has the whole world in his hands, Brave/Courageous, Get dirty. She read to them. She adopted a World Vision child the age of Fischer to teach them grace and mercy to others. They prayed over the needs of their World Vision child.
To the Dowdy family: We are very special to have two brothers marry two sisters of the same family. Thank you for loving my family and making them part of your own. UT football games, Easter at Grandma Patschke were very special to her .
To her Lexington family, so many memories.
To the Gists and Brother Chuck and the FBC family who helped my children in their journey of faith, thank you. There is no bigger gift to see your children walk a journey of faith with God.
To her Sephora family, she loved you. This was a place that allowed her creative side to be. Charles if you are here, thank you, for mentoring her, developing her and believing in her.
To her Salado United Methodist Church family….thank you for loving this family and the boys through your Mother’s Day out program. You carried on what Lizz was trying to instill in their hearts.
And to friends, family of Lizz, the Dowdy, Herro, and Diem family the outpouring of love and support has been an amazing blessing during these difficult days.
I told Samuel, that since the accident, I have been earnestly praying for the return of our Lord. I look forward to seeing Fischer and Ben return with the most amazing Super Hero ever, our Lord and we will be drawn in the sky to meet them and Lizz and I will once again get to see your face, your eyes, your smile and your embrace.
As I was re-reading my mother’s day card, it now has such significance that I wanted to share today. READ CARD
Thank you for LOVING me
Thank you for TEACHING me
Thank for LISTENING to me
Thank you for INSPIRING me.
Thank you for MAKING me go to church.
Thank you for LETTING me fall and WATCHING me get back up.
Thank you for always BELIEVING in me.
Thank you for always SHOWING me how to be a great Mom.
I love you more than LIFE!
Lastly, I like to think my daughter embodied the qualities of a Proverbs 31 woman:
“A good wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life. Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all. Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.”
In the song you are going to hear shortly, there is a phrase from the song that says she was “sent to rescue me”. Elizabeth truly was my gift from God in a very difficult period in my life. I do believe that those difficult years that we went through as a family gave her a love for God and a desire to be an amazing wife and mother. I told Samuel yesterday, Elizabeth was the amazing wife and mother because of those things. They gave her deliberate focus with her marriage and her children.
To Fischer and Ben, I look forward to having you show me a tour of heaven. Introducing me to some mighty warriors…….David, Joshua, Caleb, Timothy, Paul, John, Peter and our Lord and Savior Jesus.
To Lizz, there is such a hole in my heart and I like Sam will look forward to your smile, your joy, and your embrace. Everytime I drink a cup of tea, I will think of you.
And to Hayes William Dowdy, I look forward to holding you, rocking you through eternity.
As I began walking down the steps, the video begins playing……pictures of Lizz as a baby, child, teen, adult, wife, mother display to Martina McBride singing “In My Daughter’s Eyes”.
Please click to listen: In My Daughter’s Eyes
Elizabeth Anne: Your Mom loves you……
Fischer, Ben and Hayes…….Nana loves and misses you.
Today is the final milestone for me and my family in this year of “firsts”. One year ago today, we gathered at Salado United Methodist Church to honor the lives of Elizabeth Anne Herro Dowdy, Fischer Phillip Dowdy, Benjamin Samuel Dowdy and Hayes William Dowdy and worship the risen King. I wanted to share with you my thoughts on that day, for many that follow this blog were not physically there. To the many folks that were in attendance, many were not able to see/hear/experience some things in the service due to the large number of people that were in attendance. So today, on this one year anniversary, I wanted to put down my memories of that day before time begins to dim the crispness.
Due to Elizabeth’s passion for the book Grace Based Parenting that John and I had purchased for her and my daughter Lauren at a conference, Sam wanted to give out copies of the book to families in attendance that day. When we decided to do this, it was Wednesday afternoon, the funeral was the next morning and I had no idea how we were going to get that many copies of the book. I stepped out of the church and made a call to Family Matters which is the ministry for Dr. Kimmel and Grace Based Parenting. As God would plan it, the person that answered the phone that day was Michael Tooker. And I remember telling him: Michael, I don’t know how to really say this, but to just say it….and I told him about the accident, losing Lizz and the boys, how much she loved Grace Based Parenting and could I get 250 books in less than 24 hours to Salado Texas? At the time, we thought only the church would be filled at 500 (God had other plans obviously!), and decided 250 books would be plenty. Family Matters put them on a plane and fed-exed them to me. They arrived without a hitch at the church before the service the next morning! At the end of the homegoing service, every single book was gone! I prayed over those books that they would go to families that would read and raise their children in grace based homes. Family Matters is another organization that gathered that day to pray for our families. Family Matters has also continued to pray for us over the past year. I have been honored to get to know and work with the amazing people at this ministry.
We arrived at the church early to meet those that had come to pay their respects and love on our family. We had brought our favorite pictures and displayed them in the room for people to see while waiting to share their condolences. There appeared to be a never ending line of amazing people. In fact, we never got to all the people in the line. Part of me wanted to stay all day and just hug and share stories about Lizz and the boys with everyone that came to share that day with us. But the clock was approaching the beginning of the service and we were moved to another room to wait. It was there our family, friends, and those special people that Sam had asked to carry my daughter and grandsons to their final resting place gathered. We shared stories, laughter and tears. We were then led into the sanctuary where we would take our seats on the front row of what would be something as a Mom and Nana, I never thought I would ever have to experience.
The church had so many flowers. More than I have EVER seen……no exaggeration…….ever! More than any wedding, more than any funeral I had ever attended. They covered the entire front of the church. They were up on the platform, on the floor, out the sides, all around the three caskets that were at the front of the church. We filed in and took our seats and started the service. Sam and the Dowdy family sat on the left of the aisle and Elizabeth’s family sat on the right. Close friends and family and those that were pall bearers were sitting behind us. Elizabeth’s Dad, Jeff Herro, spoke first. He talked about miracles and how we experience them everyday and to not forget that. After he finished, I was to share my thoughts. As I walked up the steps, I remember praying to Jesus to calm me and give me the words to talk about my daughter and not break down and cry…..not now….not when I needed to talk about her. I remember saying as I walked up the steps to the microphone: Elizabeth, this is for you. I knew many were there that didn’t know my daughter. And I wanted them to have a sense of who she and the boys were when I finished. When you bury your child, there is an intense desire to want to have people know about them, about their life no matter how long/short it was. I will never forget taking the steps up to the microphone with Elizabeth’s copy of Grace Based Parenting and turning to see those that had gathered. There were no seats left in the sanctuary. It was filled to capacity! I saw many of my co-workers standing against the wall and others lining the back of the room. I could see people in the overflow room where we had just hugged and welcomed people in the line before the service. I saw people standing out of the sanctuary, in the foyer and down the halls, and spilling out in the parking lot on a hot August day. Friends, Family, Co-workers, people that didn’t know us at all, but wanted to come pay their respects, and then I saw the DPS troopers. They were standing in the foyer. They had come to honor the lives of the ones that they had to respond to. Let me just pause here and say that we have some amazing men and women that serve us through law enforcement. This event has taught me that some of them have very difficult jobs. Responding to the accident call on July 30th, had to have been one of those difficult days. To Trooper Sorto, I will be forever grateful for your professionalism, your dignity, grace and honor you gave to John and I during those days and weeks after the accident. After the service, I found out that besides the sanctuary, overflow room, halls and foyer, they opened up the additional building beside the church and had piped in the sound/visuals. In all, they have estimated there were upwards of 1,200 people in attendance to pay their respects to Elizabeth and the boys. To help put that in perspective, the Salado 2011 census has the population of the town at 2, 161. It truly was an overwhelming sight. There were more people in that setting than I had ever spoken to in my life that day, that is for sure. But I remember the calm in my heart and the overwhelming desire to share about my daughter and my grandsons. So, with Elizabeth’s well used Grace Based Parenting book, and my notes from early that morning I began. (Due to the length of this post, I am posting my eulogy separately….See “A Mother shares thoughts about her daughter and grandsons lives”)
My daughter Lauren created a videography of favorite pictures and songs. As I stated earlier, singing “Seek Justice, Love Mercy, Walk Humbly with your God” during the song of Courageous was very moving. (Please read Day 28: Courageous)
Then two pastors spoke. One of them was Lizz’s favorite pastor who had left Salado Methodist to go to another church but came back and blessed us by honoring her. The second was Pastor Travis. He talked about all the scripture and sayings that Elizabeth had around the house. He referenced the chalk board drawings that I had previously referenced in my eulogy. We then were led in worship by the worship leader at the church, Will. As I have covered in my previous posts we sang the following songs as a congregation: You Light up the sky, White Flag, 10,000 Reasons and I Still Believe. (Please see those previous postings for more thoughts/reflections on those songs).
Sam’s Dad spoke about losing a daughter 14 years ago, and how you will have different eyes and view the world, people, events and your priorities differently. We listened to a song that he wrote for his daughter.
At the end of the service, the recessional was Mercy Me’s “I Can only Imagine”. When the song began playing, they began moving the flowers in order to take Elizabeth and the boys to their final resting place. As I stated previously there were so many flowers, that “I Can only Imagine” began re-playing. Lisa Herro turned to me and asked if we should help them move the flowers and I agreed. I didn’t think I could bear to hear the song repeat another time. I remember Lisa and I got up and started moving the flowers so we could exit the church and proceed to the cemetery.
The casket flower sprays that the Dowdy’s picked out were beautiful. They were all in sunflowers, Elizabeth’s favorite flower. Within Fischer’s spray was his Incredible Hulk oversized hands that his Lolly (aka Lauren) bought him. Within Benjamin’s flower spray was his Spiderman Mask and toy. As Ben would say in his two year old voice: Man, mommy, Man! (Man was Spiderman!)
And I think we all remember Sam. How very difficult that service was for him. The Bible talks about wailing and crying from the depths of our soul. I now know what that sounds like. We witnessed that on August 2, 2012. The pain in Sam’s cries as we went through the service were very difficult for us to bear.
Sam’s grandfather, Robert Dowdy officiated at the grave side. He talked about when Jesus returns for his children and that we will meet him in the sky, and those that have “gone to sleep” before us will be the first to join him. I remember the heat of the day and standing under the tent looking around at those that were with us. I remember seeing Elizabeth’s Lexington elementary school principle, Ms. Bricker, who smiled and blew me a kiss. There were her Sephora friends. There was a previous co-worker that had driven down from Dallas to attend…..so many of Elizabeth’s classmates from Lexington were there, and so, many, many more. There was her pastor that baptized her at First Baptist Church Lexington that I had not seen since I had moved from Lexington. I can’t express how much that day meant to me and my family. So many to show up and love on us, cry with us, stand with us and pay their respects to Elizabeth, Fischer, Benjamin and Hayes. It illustrated in a very real way what my daughter and grandsons meant to so many which was a beginning to our healing after a loss of such magnitude.
There were close to 200 cards that John and I received with people sharing their thoughts, condolences and prayers to my family. Many of the cards that we received after the funeral spoke of the spirit of God that was there that day like none other they had ever experienced. A friend of mine whose parents were there and was a retired minister said they had gone to many services over their long years of being a minister, but had never experienced what they experienced that day. Photographers that had taken pictures of family events brought some of their favorite photographs as memorials to our family. There were the financial gifts to Elizabeth’s favorite charity, Methodist Children’s Home in Waco that totaled upwards to $15,000! Then there were the food and meals that people brought to the Salado house for many days and weeks that followed.
And so, here I am. Starting the second year of this journey tomorrow. My thoughts are this: I have grieved every single day for 365 days. I have cried every one of those. With God’s help, I have leaned in and felt and faced the winds of pain, suffering, and adversity. It has taught me that when we are weak, God is strong. God is faithful. God shows up with just what we need at the right time. His grace, his wonderful grace is sufficient. And always to HIS GLORY!
I also feel I am standing on a threshold. Praying that God will show me where this path is going…..or at least show me the next step. Grief is not something you get over…….it is something you go through. God is helping me re-define my life after last year. What is my “new” normal going to be? I don’t know. But this I do know……God is still holding me in the palm of his hand. And as I stated earlier, I wanted to be a pro-active griever and so I face year two of the journey with some goals…..to take better care of myself. To go to the doctor, dentist, eye doctor, you name it. Some of these health visits, I haven’t done in two years. I know, I know. It’s been hard though…..just going to work and surviving has been exhausting and physically painful. And secondly to begin to exercise. I am blessed in this area, because I have hired my IronMan daughter Lauren Dowdy to be my trainer. EEEEEEEEKKKKKK!!!! Watch out world!
And since music and worship has become such a huge part of this journey, I have selected a song that describes where I am on this day……It is Well with my Soul. It is the same words that are on Elizabeth’s memorial wreath cross and the same cross that is on my door. If you don’t know the story of the hymn I want to share it here, because it makes the words and meaning even more powerful:
At the very height of his financial and professional success, Horatio and his wife Anna Spafford suffered the tragic loss of their young son. Shortly thereafter on October 8, 1871, the Great Chicago Fire destroyed almost every real estate investment that Spafford had. In 1873, Spafford scheduled a boat trip to Europe in order to give his wife and daughters a much needed vacation and time to recover from the tragedy. He also went to join Moody and Sankey on an evangelistic campaign in England. Spafford sent his wife and daughters ahead of him while he remained in Chicago to take care of some unexpected last minute business. Several days later he received notice that his family’s ship had encountered a collision. All four of his daughters drowned; only his wife had survived. With a heavy heart, Spafford boarded a boat that would take him to his grieving Anna in England. It was on this trip that he penned those now famous words, When sorrow like sea billows roll; it is well, it is well with my soul. Philip Bliss (1838-1876), composer of many songs including Hold the Fort, Let the Lower Lights be Burning, and Jesus Loves Even Me, was so impressed with Spafford’s life and the words of his hymn that he composed a beautiful piece of music to accompany the lyrics. The song was published in 1876. For more than a century, the tragic story of one man has given hope to countless thousands who have lifted their voices to sing, It Is Well With My Soul.
A grieving father and husband who through it all gave glory to God. This version has David Phelps singing with his amazing tenor voice. I cling to the promise in the last verse:
And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.
Please click to listen: It is Well with My Soul
And lastly, this next year I will focus on ways that I can continue to honor the life of my daughter and grandsons. I have already started on some special things…and am really excited about those, but will save that for a future post!
Thanks for reading this till the end. I know it was a long post, but was very important to do this.
It is well……..
For Day 3, I continue to highlight another song about Heaven that I loved to sing (still do!). As I stated in my earlier post, I focused a lot on our home called heaven! This song is a favorite of not only mine but also my daughters.
This is a great song by the group Building 429.
All I know is I’m not home yet
This is not where I belong
Take this world and give me Jesus
This is not where I belong!
I particularly love the verse:
So when the walls come falling down on me
And when I’m lost in the current of a raging sea
I have this blessed assurance holding me.
So crank up the volume and sing about where we belong!
Take this world and give me Jesus!