Tragedy & Blessings

Some people we love recently experienced a very sad and tragic loss. As per normal, you feel lost about how to offer comfort or encouragement; it is hard to know what to say or do. In considering how to respond, I remembered what meant so much to me last year when my mom had a stroke. In one post I said this:

[My mom's stroke] has changed my family's perspective on health, family, health insurance, work, and our community of supportive friends & family members. We will bring food to people in our life who suffer tragedy in the future. We will reach out to those we barely know so that we can meet their needs & maybe have the distinct honor of being "the hands of god." We will pay for insurance that has a "max out of pocket" we can live with. We will not smoke. We will visit others in the hospital even when we don't know what to say or how to act--- because we know they won't either! We will reevaluate financial vs quality of life goals...and not make the mistake of assuming they are the same thing.

When my mom had her stroke, there was an outpouring of love and support I could not have anticipated. The greatest blessings were the ones that came so unexpected...I still get choked up when I think about my dear, sweet friend Tammy walking into the ICU with baskets, bags, and boxes of sandwiches, soups, cookies, and bread. She'd never even met my family. Aunts and Uncles stopping by late in the evening to meet my Dad when he came home to shower. They brought peanut butter cookies, stew, casseroles- and the tired grief in my dad's eyes abated for the time they were present. Really, it wasn't what they said or brought, it was just that they were THERE. These are wonderful memories, and equally precious are the notes people sent in the days after my mom's stroke. I don't really know why I am sharing these things- I've left the comments anonymous & tagged them with letters so that people might remember their kind words & know how meaningful they were to me. These letters of love are keepsakes I will treasure; I just recently forwarded them all to my mom so she'll know how loved she is. I hope my dear grieving friends are treated with as much kindness as we were shown, and that anyone not sure of what to say might be inspired by the words of love we were blessed with...

I remember that your mom really stood up for me and I just remember feeling really loved and safe with your family. I still remember that feeling even today- years later. I remember your mom making me feel welcomed and safe with you guys and if push came to shove, she wasn't going to take any crap!! I think that it is just a glimpse into the love, strength, and support and your parents have really built into your family, it is just the best memory I have of her and I think a real testament to the Stephens family. (H)

That is really what families are for- not just to get together during the holidays but whenever we need each other. You can call me anytime even if it is a last minute thing and if you just want me to come to your house so it is easier on you I can do that. Just tell me the days you need someone and I'll be there. (L)

We're praying for Aunt Karen, and also for you, the other cousins, Jo, and Uncle Casey. Sending so much love your way. :) (B)

It seems that when everyday life goes on it is not often we get to see the specialness of such moments and then something happens to slow our world down and we are able to see such pure love. (L)

Auntie Karen has been in the prayers of soo many of us. ___’s parents just called to see how she was doing and to tell me that they have been praying non-stop for her. We haven’t stopped talking about her. Please let her know we love her. (L)

Psalms 138:8 "When I pray, you answer me, and encourage me by giving me the strength I need." I am a mom and grandmother and I know that nothing makes me want to try to do my best than for the family that God has blessed me with. I can see that in your mom each step she takes is for the love of her family. (N)

I just wanted to let you know that your family & your mom are in my prayers. And I don't throw that around lightly. ___ called me the other day to tell me about your mom & I haven't been able to stop thinking about you all. If there's anything I can do, please don't hesitate to call. I'd be happy to watch Jo anytime, bring dinner. Whatever the case may be. Even if it's just a few minutes to get away from it all & have a coffee, I'm here. Honestly, I'm not just saying that. (S)

Anyways, I 'm not very good with words but I just wanted to let you know you are in my heart always! Please, give your mom a kiss for me (R)


___ told me about your Mom and I’ve been following her progress on your blog. What an amazing family you have. The strength and faith that come through in your writing are so inspirational. I know how hard it must be to see someone you love so much struggle with the daily chores of life. I’m so happy that each day seems to bring new accomplishments and renewed hope. Even though I’ve never met the rest of your family I wanted you to know that you are all in my thoughts and prayers. Sending hugs and prayers your way. (J)

I am guessing that you mom may be concerned about the unknown. The thought of an intense PT may have all of us wonder if we could do it. Just keep listening to her and let her know that you all will be there to pick her up physically and emotionally. I know your mom can do RIO and so do you but I think that it is normal for her not to be sure. Just keep those prayers going and it will all work out. (L)

Your mom has pride. I can't even imagine all the emotions that must be rolling through her, and how frightening it must be to admit them to herself, let alone her family who she has always been the one to nurture. She is vulnerable right now...this, I know you know.....I guess it took this visit with her for me to realize just how vulnerable she is. She's spent her entire life caring for others.....how difficult it must be and how foreign it must feel, for her to have to allow others to care for her. A flash of understanding and rush of empathy filled me tonight, and my heart ached for her. But something I know, and have always known, and I know you, Ashley, Jack and your Dad know....is your Mom is also a woman of uncommon strength. I am in awe of her and how she has progressed in just one week. I think of her strength, the times I've seen her display it, and even without your Mom saying a word, I am comforted by this knowledge. It's like she continues to nurture and care for me, even in her current condition, just through her spirit. (N)

I pray for your mom every day. (B)

I feel like they have always supported me and have played a part in my success and happiness. Please, Please, Please, ask for help if you need it or they need it. It is my turn to give back to them. (R)

These are just tiny excerpts & only a few- thanks a thousand times over for the love & support you guys gave us!!!


The Ropp Family said...

Man, I can't even put into words the chills that ran down my spine as I was reading all of those. It's unreal to take it back to the first few weeks after her stroke.

Praying and sending loves for your persons who are hurting. It's easy to forget how real that pain is.


Nina said...

The joy part of going through painful times is how God can use it to help others and bless them as others have blessed us. I am lifting up those you are close to in prayer. Your words to them are just right. It is so comforting to be loved in that way.

Anonymous said...

Great post Michelle! Thank you for the encouragement to reach out to those in pain. We all have people in our lives that go through something hard and painful, and so often we really don't know what to say, or IF we should say something, so thank you for teaching us.