Death

For Bonnie

A few days ago, my mom gave me a stack of old journals and a mangled blue Bible to keep.  

An entry on my mom's 26th birthday.  

An entry on my mom's 26th birthday.  

 

They belonged to my late Grandmother.

I affectionately called her "Mamaw". 

Today, she turns 90. I haven't celebrated a birthday with her in 22 years. 

I remember that last birthday. I had no idea it would be her last, although, I think she knew. 

I spent part of that summer with her, in my birthplace, the fall before entering fifth grade. 

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I begged her to take me shopping for her big day. She even gave me spending money to spend on all of the randomness I chose. I carefully picked each item. I'm sure, to her, they were all highly treasured, yet entirely pointless. 

 

I locked myself in her office for two hours wrapping her gifts as annoying as any ten year old possibly could.

I started with a tiny box, which I placed in a slightly bigger box, and, in which I placed several more boxes in nesting fashion until I had this massive moving box to present to her. 

 

One of my favorite hymns. I remember hearing my Mamaw's voice joyfully belt out these songs while cleaning/cooking. She loved to sing to Jesus.  

One of my favorite hymns. I remember hearing my Mamaw's voice joyfully belt out these songs while cleaning/cooking. She loved to sing to Jesus.  

She led on like it was the most magical moment of her life. I beamed with pride at my cleverness. It took her forever to open. She cackled and laughed the whole time proclaiming how funny and silly I was. 

 

I didnt realize then what a good sport she was. 

 

I remember staying in the thick of my childhood ignorance as God slowly prepared my Mamaw for heaven. I had no idea that her "sickness" was permanent. I had no idea she was in pain. She never stopped smiling and moving when I was around. Now I can't help but feel badly for the ridiculous wrapping job I did.

  

Because we lived in Carolina and she was in Indiana, I didn't see her much while she was sick.  

 

I felt like one moment I was watching her wipe the laughs from her eyes and the next I found her barely 80 lbs.glued to a metal framed bed. Shock and confusion came next. And when she passed, I didn't cry. I was too shocked to cry.  

 

My heart has missed her all these years, but her existence always seemed like a daydream to me. Like it happened and didn't happen all at once. To me, she's always been gone. 

My black journal is so very worn, but very much loved.  

My black journal is so very worn, but very much loved.  

 

But then, the stack of journals. 

 

Its been a couple of years since I dove headfirst into a novel. It's been so long since I've found myself lost in another's words. I tell myself I don't have the time. 

 

As an avid journal-keeper, myself, I felt my fingers itching to open the treasures I held. The treasures I didn't know existed.

 

My Grandmother loved to write. 

March 6, 1988.  

March 6, 1988.  

 

She loved to write. Just like me.  

 

Or maybe, it's more like: "I love to write. Just like her." 

 

She wrote beautifully. I read every twist and twirl her pen made on the musky pages. I smiled. I ached. I cried. I laughed a couple of times, even. 

 

I haven't been able to put them down. They mean everything to me. I'm sure my mother wants them back, but she may have to bribe me with brownies and some babysitting. 

 

I feel like, for the first time since she passed, that I can grieve the loss of her. To understand the heart of my Grandma. To see her pain, her struggle, her commitment to God and His Glory. Her joys and deepest sorrows washed over me as I read. It was one of the most wonderful gifts.  

A truth I wrote from Psalm so long ago. I need it more now than I did then.  

A truth I wrote from Psalm so long ago. I need it more now than I did then.  

 

Mamaw, on your birthday, I want you to know that I miss you. I fully 100% miss you. I miss what we had, but mostly, I miss what could've been. I miss that you missed so much. I miss that you missed seeing my children. I miss that we couldn't sit and write together. I miss that you couldn't rock my babies and sing "Bushel and a Peck". I miss that you missed seeing your only daughter being the best mom (because of you). And I miss that you weren't here for the times when she needed to cry on your shoulder, but had to settle for mine.  

Her last entry.  

Her last entry.  

I'll pick up where you left off, Mamaw. I'll keep filling these pages up with the words that fill my soul. I'll keep sharing. I'll keep shining like you did, but I'll keep missing you with every turn of the page. 

 

I know I won't have to miss you for long. Like you said in your last journal entry ever "I'll be seeing you around the corner, so smile...be happy...".

 

Love you. Love you.  

I see myself in you... 

I see myself in you... 

Her journals on the left, mine on the right. Pages filled with the openings of our hearts. 

Her journals on the left, mine on the right. Pages filled with the openings of our hearts. 

Dear Joey,

Last night, you changed my life.  

 

I don't even know you, and yet, you spoke a thousand things to me in a single picture. 

 

I regret to tell you, that I've never heard your music. I had, honestly, never heard of you before last week. I guess I wasn't paying attention. I hope that doesn't offend you.  

 

So my intentions in writing you this letter, before you see our Savior, are as pure as gold. I am not seeking to bask in the shadow of your celebrity. 

 

I'm writing you because I, like millions of others, saw the photo of you cuddling your toddler baby in an article last night.  

Photo cred: RoryandJoey  

Photo cred: RoryandJoey  

 

I stared.  

 

I just took the whole beautiful tragedy in over the course of several minutes. 

 

I wept a little thinking of how you are doing exactly what we should all be doing as mothers: seizing the time we have left.   

 

Because, really, we all know deep down that these lives are just as changing and fragile as the leaves.  

 

I've lived this year fearful, anxious, panicked, and depressed. I've had some minor health issues, but nothing like what you are currently enduring. And yet, I've lived as though there was no hope. I'm embarrassed by that. 

 

You reminded me that while you are very fragile and filled with excruciating pain, that I am not, and I've chosen not to live life like I should.  

 

You reminded me that the present moments we have are all that we truly have, and that gift of "next breath" may never be breathed.  

 

You showed me that I should be thankful to still be able to make meals, chase my toddler, and carry the endless loads of laundry because I am able to do so. I'm sure I would miss that if it was taken from me. I can only imagine you would love to do that for your family right now. And I bet you would make them the most delicious feast, and the smile wouldn't leave your face. 

 

I can't remember the last time I smiled while making dinner. 

 

I bet you wouldn't grumble about folding tiny pink clothes before your sweet Indy throws them all across the room. The laundry game that almost every mother can relate to.   

 

I know you wouldn't turn down "just one more book" or that glass of water before bedtime because there can never be too much reading and serving, really.  

 

You've reminded me that the "just make it until bedtime" mentality is an outlook that doesn't welcome the mess-making and joy-filled chaos.  

 

And so, you've ruined me. And I'm glad you have. I needed the ruining; the realization that these family times are the best of times.  

 

Joey, I don't know exactly what you're feeling at this moment, but know this: you are still doing the hard work of motherhood. You're teaching all of us that motherhood is beautiful in all stages, even when it's time for motherhood to end.  

 

I will be praying for you and your family in the coming days, weeks, months, years. I hope your daughters can always somehow experience the love you have for them, even from afar.  

 

And I will always remember that you taught me more from a picture than any book, blog post, or mom friend could ever gift me. To love each messy, crazy, motherhood moment and to LIVE fully in each breath.  

 

Until we meet, Alicia  

 

******The tentative release date for "Dear Joey," is this weekend, January 29th, 2017! Stay tuned for the release announcement! 

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The Day I Met Satan (face to face)

I don't remember exactly what day it was. I do know it was about three years ago that I had the scariest encounter of my life. 

 

My children were 5,3, and about a year old. I recall coasting along all "luke-warm" like before the day I met Satan.  

 

I recall attending a ladies Bible study regularly during this time. Just about half a year prior, I also recall my sister reaching out to me and desiring to read the Bible thru together. I recall that being an answer to prayer I had prayed just twelve hours before.

 

I was on my way back to a place where God was the center of my life. I rarely felt attacked before this point in motherhood. It was kinda nice to just coast along with little to no traffic slowing me down.

 

It was 4am, and I had just nursed Avery back to bed. As usual, I fell back asleep rather quickly. I never expected what would happen next.  

 

As real as your heartbeat right now, Satan was right in front of me.

 

I walked into a room with a cold looking metal bed pushed to one side. My Hunter was sleeping soundly on the bed. I went over to him to kiss his head when I saw something horrifying. He had been "marked". 

 

His exposed, naked back had been laced up with a large, black shoestring.  The sores that contained the piercing thru of each lace were bright red, infected, and pus-filled. It ran the length of his entire back. It was clear who had done this to him. 

 

Mike came into the room and saw the horrifying scene. In a panic, I asked him, "Where is Carter?!, Where is Avery?!?"  

 

You could feel the heavy darkness consuming the space. 

 

I knew we had to find Carter and Avery, and fast. We left the room and began running down dark corridors screaming their names. We knew they were next. 

 

I saw them in the distance, running and screaming for us. But the closer we got, the more evil I felt in the air. 

 

He he stepped out from around a corner. Face to face with me, he scowled and sneered the most evil smile I had ever witnessed.  

 

I cant describe just how shocking he looked. His evil radiated from his face like steam coming from a block of dry ice. He wasn't anything I had ever imagined he would look like. He was worse. Much much worse. And that's all I can say about his appearance, because it's honestly too overwhelming to recall and describe in totality. 

 

He simply said these words to me, "I will destroy you. And I will start with your children...one by one."  

 

I didnt stay stay to hear if he had anything else to say. I began running towards my children again... 

 

And then, it was over. 

 

I spent the remainder of that morning completely terrified. Overcome with fear, anxiety, discouragement, I walked around feeling defeated and overwhelmed. I called my sister in sobbing tears. I called my Bible study leader and good friend later that day.  

 

And then I realized something. I needn't be afraid at all. In fact, God sent His perfect peace on me, when I pushed the fear out of the way. 

 

And then, the next feeling that overcame me was somewhat startling. I felt honored.  

 

Truly. I did. I realized that Satan saw me as a threat to his scheming and various plots of destruction. He saw me as a true threat to his wiley ways. 

 

Since that encounter, I've been given the privilege of leading all three of those children to Christ. So Satan doesn't have them, Christ does.  

 

And since then, I've been more attacked and ridiculed by him than I have in my entire life combined.  

 

He thought that if he targeted my children first, that it would be the way to discourage me the most. But really, all he did was lead them forward to recognizing their need for a Savior.  

 

So, now, I'm his direct target. He has lied and lied and lied to me some more. He's literally broken my phone so I can't read encouragement from friends and family. He's tried to come between my husband and I. He's tried to wreck our finances as he's had us literally fighting every day of every week with our medical bill situation. He's set so many road blocks up, and pushed us back into the valley over and over and over again. 

 

{We keep getting up}.  

 

Satan, really, I'm very flattered you are obsessed with me. But I'm angry. I'm more angry than I've ever been. And I'm more equipped than I've ever been, too. 

 

I have so many people in my corner, I have too may people praying, too many people blessing us to let you have your way.  

 

My body may be weak, but He will fight and has fought for me.

 

I hate you, and meeting you was probably the most flattering thing that could've happened to me. Not many people can say they've met you face to face. 

 

You're just jealous of the hope I have.

 

How pitiful.