Saturday, December 12, 2015

Wrapped in Love and Memories

I picked up an early birthday/Christmas gift this past Thursday. 
It's a present to myself. 
And from my dad.
But really, I think it's from God because God led me to this wonderful organization.

Last summer I had been looking for someone to make a memory quilt for me out of some of my dad's shirts. I got a few names from business cards at our local fabric store, but before calling any of them I checked out their Facebook pages. One had a link to an organization that she volunteered with called Living Thread Ministries - which makes memory quilts. As I clicked onto the website and read about this organization I began crying and thanking God for leading me to it because it was absolutely perfect.

Living Threads has three intersecting ministries: creating personalized quilts to those mourning the loss of a loved one, enabling volunteers to use their quilting talent to help others, and a missional focus to support poor and needy children of the world (all the donations received from the quilts are going to support children in the Kibera Slum of Kenya). Since my mission trips to South Africa several years ago, part of my heart remains in Africa and I've always had a heart for children; I'm so thankful God led me to this organization where my donation for my memory quilt can be used for children in Africa.

Last June I met with Jill, the director of Living Threads, for about two hours. We talked about my dad, looked at some quilt designs, went through my dad's shirts, and designed a unique quilt using his shirts and special memories. I was told it would take several months to complete and most likely would be ready in January. I mentioned that it would be really nice to have it done by Christmas.

Last week I received an email notifying me that my quilt was finished and ready to be picked up - earlier than I expected (and just before my birthday). I've really been missing my dad lately and I'm so thankful to have this quilt. When I wrap it around my shoulders I feel like my dad is close by. Even more than that, I sense God's presence and care as I remember how He led me to having this quilt made.

The middle square has a dove quilted in.

The complete quilt - notice the music notes quilted on the borders.

Close-up photos of the different sections

a red summer shirt and a t-shirt from the heart walk

Dad loved eagles - this is the logo from one of his sweatshirts;
the black star points are from a dress shirt.

Micah 6:8 and Dad's motto

I love all the quilting behind the words!

These are all from my dad's dress shirts - 
I remember him wearing each of these.

"The Lord Bless You and Keep You" sheet music -
all dad's choirs at GRCH sang this at the end of concerts.
I will always think of my dad when I hear this song.

The logo from his Calvin College jacket.
(Thank-you for keeping it all these years!)

You can see all the quilting designs on the back.

I love my quilt. 
Thank you Living Threads Ministries for this treasured keepsake filled with love and memories of my dad.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Living with Loss

It’s been six months since my dad died. That’s half of a year. It seems like a long time ago and just last month, both at the same time. I remember his last few days so clearly that it’s hard to believe so much time has passed. And yet, life has gone on.

We’ve done many things in these last six months. I went kayaking at Pictured Rocks, my mom and I took a trip to New York City, and my sister joined us for a “Ladies Weekend” up north. It was strange not to tell my dad about our trips. He always enjoyed hearing about what we were doing. My mom traded in her car for a smaller one and had the rotting window repaired in her condo. She also spent numerous hours on the phone with ATT U-verse representatives trying to get the TV/internet working again. She’s learning a new type of independence; I’m proud of her. We spent hours going over paperwork, dealing with social security, and changing various accounts into her name this summer; then we find there’s still more to do. We didn’t realize how much paperwork there is to deal with when a family member dies. My mom is developing new routines – cooking for one, paying the bills, making decisions on her own, going out for breakfast with her church’s widows group, and learning to live without my dad.

But the ache of living with this loss continues. I’ll be going along with my day when something reminds me of my dad and then I remember he’s not here. Sometimes I just want to hear his voice or ask his advice. I want to tell him what I’m doing. I wonder what he’s doing in heaven. Often, a sermon or song at church will remind me of my dad. Whenever I go downstairs in their condo and see the rearranged furniture without his desk, I have to catch my breath. There are times when I feel that gut-wrenching pain of missing him and knowing he’s not ever coming back – it’s so final, and I just feel sad. I miss him.

God created people to live in community; to be in relationship with each other. Death is the ultimate separation from other people. It’s such a devastating result of sin – not the way it’s supposed to be.
(Romans 5:12 - Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned—). I truly hate sin and its effects.

Two of my friends/colleagues unexpectedly lost their husband and father last month. Attending the visitation and funeral brought my own experience with my dad right back to my mind. I can relate to some of their feelings: the separation and loss. But I can’t relate to the unexpectedness of their loss. I’ve thought about death a lot lately. I’ve wondered which is easier: a slower death with time to prepare vs. an unexpected death with no suffering. I’ve come to the conclusion that both are hard simply because we were not created for this separation. We were created for life. It’s hard to say goodbye and the finality of death remains with us always.

Amidst my grief with this loss is the hope I have through Christ. I believe the Bible and cling to this verse: For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23). I’m thankful that God found a way to restore the separation death brings.

I find myself thinking about heaven a lot more now. I wonder what it’s like there. I wonder if my dad has reconnected with his parents, his friends and colleagues, Christians he admired. What is it like to actually see God? To be in a place where there is no sadness, disease, or pain? I have so many questions about God and heaven. My parents and I read several books about heaven in the months before my dad died; I wonder what new things he’s discovered and what he’s doing. I look forward to meeting him again someday in heaven.

And so I continue living my life. Moving on, in a way, but remembering my dad with love. And living with this deep loss.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Fall Get-Away Weekend

I haven't seen my sister since my dad passed away five months ago. So we planned a little get-away weekend with my mom, my sister, and I in northern Michigan at Boyne Mountain ski resort this weekend. None of us ski; the location was chosen by my mom because she saw a TV commercial of someone riding the chairlift at Boyne Mountain during the fall color season and thought it would be a fun thing to do - and it was! It was so nice to be together with the three of us again. 

Since the fall colors are arriving in Michigan a little later this year, we didn't see a lot of colors in the trees. But we had fun riding up the chairlift anyway - the scenery is still beautiful. It was their "Skitoberfest" weekend (Octoberfest for skiers), so they had a lot of activities set up on Saturday. We enjoyed the various food/drink booths and the street performers. We also did a zip line, which was pretty fun.

We drove to Boyne City in the morning and found their Harvest Festival going on as well. We sampled coffee and cookies, checked out the craft tables and farmers' market, and did a little shopping in the downtown stores.

A fun weekend together!

Sunset on the way up north - God's artistry!

The trees in the parking lot were colorful.

Going up the chairlift

Looking back at the resort from the chairlift

It's windy and cold up there!

A little bit of fall color in the distance!

SKI-toberfest - they brought in snow!
the zip line ending platform

Mom getting ready for her zip line adventure!

Melanie ready to zip line!

Mom and Amy on the zip line platform - almost ready to take off.

Amy (left) and Mom (right) zip lining across the pond.

Melanie and Amy on their second zip line ride.

We did it! FUN!

our hotel at Boyne Mountain

more fall color

Going up the chairlift one more time on Sunday morning; mom is behind us.

LOVE these people!

Toby also got a little vacation as he spent the weekend with my friend and her dog, Jack. Thanks, Jodi, for the text and picture updates!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

New York City - Day 4 (Last Day)

It was exactly a week ago that my mom and I were spending our last day in the New York City area. We actually didn't go into the city on Sunday, but we could see it across the river as we spent the morning at Ellis Island and Liberty Island. 

It was especially interesting to visit Ellis Island after researching our family genealogy a few years ago. Some of our ancestors (on both sides of my family) came to Ellis Island when they arrived in the United States. I wonder how they felt as they were crowded in the lower deck steerage area of the steamship for the 8-11 day voyage from Amsterdam to the United States. What were their impressions as they docked at Ellis Island - waiting in the large baggage room while clutching all their belongings, moving to the registry room and undergoing medical and legal exams without speaking English. How many of them purchased a snack at the island's dining room? I know my great-grandfather purchased a banana here and ate it - peel and all - because he had never seen one before. Did any of them have relatives or friends that were waiting here for them? Were they afraid, excited, or both as they entered this country and their new life? 

This was originally the Baggage Room, the first stop for immigrants at Ellis Island.

A short ferry ride took us from Ellis Island to Liberty Island where we had an hour to walk around and see the Statue of Liberty as well as get lunch before the (very) long trip home. 

It was a whirlwind trip - we saw and experienced a lot and had a great time together. 
Thanks, Mom, for going with me to New York City.