the empty on Mother’s Day. . .trading joy for loss

I was thirteen years old when I decided to become a nurse.  I spent that summer caring for my Grandma DeNeui along with my cousin in Loveland, Colorado.  Her sweet worn out heart just wasn’t sustaining her anymore.  So, I had the opportunity to stay at the farm and be by her side during those final precious days of her walk on this earth.

I took pride in the smallest of tasks aiding her that week.  Checking her sugar,  fixing her meals, making hot tea, brushing her hair with that soft white bristled brush with the silver handle; and just sitting and listening to her soft breath as it lifted her chest up and down, and up and down.

Grandma DeNeui.  My happy place.  The white farm house with red trim was small, cozy and always smelled like fresh baked bread.  I’d cuddle up to those soft aging arms and take in that Pillsbury fresh smell.  Grandma spoiled me with club crackers and when mom wasn’t looking. . .a few spoonfuls of sugar in my hot tea.

(Grandma and I walking through the flower gardens with her poodle, Sophie)

(Grandma, Mom, Sherri, and I)

Grandma worked until the day she died.  In her jean overalls, she’d tend to the sheep, hatching chickens, fresh farm eggs for sale, and turkeys for Thanksgiving.  Her gardens set my imagination to escape daily living and travel rows and rows of veggies and flowers to a kingdom far far away.

I knew Grandma couldn’t live forever.  Perhaps that’s why I’d sit and soak in every detail of her life, listen to her stories and advice and watch carefully the chapters in the Bible she favored.

Johanna DeNeui. . .known as Hannah to most, was born in Germany.  I won’t give away all of her information, for that’s another upcoming book I’m just dying to get out to you.  She was sweet, spicy, short, and plump in her older days.  Losing her husband early in life, she raised four children working the farm and making a living with only an 8th grade education.  She learned English, but argued in German.

She was my hero.

My dad was visiting that summer when we got the call from the hospital telling us she was fading fast.  One of the only times I can remember my mom and dad together. . .we were speeding with flashers on to make the 1 ½ hr drive.

Grandma was alert, but uncomfortable.  Thrashing her legs back and forth in the bed, she desperately wanted to use the bathroom.
“Just go in the bed, Mom. . .my aunt told her.”  My sister and I stood by mom as she held grandma’s soft wrinkled hand.  Mom and
her sisters were crying and with a smile each one said, “Mom, you can go home now.  Just let go.  We’re ok.”

“We love you mom!  We love you!”

My Aunt Karen, so young when Grandpa died let the tears flow as she said, “tell daddy hello for us.”

“Go on home mom. . .”

And with that, her eyes opened for the last time.  She stopped moving around and smiled from ear to ear.  The most joy I’ve ever
seen.  She closed her eyes and met Jesus face to face.

It was the most precious moment until the day my own child met Jesus face to face.  Letting go of Grandma was one of the hardest things I had to do.  My mom was all alone now.  No husband, no dad, and no mom.  Johanna DeNeui was a servant of God that
forever touched lives.

And now my own mother is that soft grandma for my children.  We travel to Colorado to visit her and the kids play with her knick knacks just as I did when little.

My mom has had four heart attacks.  She is in her 70’s and we know we cannot live forever.  I know mom has one true love in
life and that is the Lord Jesus Christ.  She longs to go home one day.  But while she waits. . .she serves those around her and loves on my littles to teach them how to live by visiting old stories from the past.  They sit on the edge of their seats for each and every story.

(Sherri, Me, Mom)

Every year, we all set aside a day in May to remember, honor, and cater to all of those who possess that admirable name, “Mother.”

We often forget that Mother’s Day can wear down certain souls who have suffered loss.  The casual “Happy Mother’s Day,” treasured hand made gifts orchestrated by Sunday School teachers, and the solicited bouquet of flowers often bring tremendous sorrow instead of smiles.

I do not take this day lightly.  I am blessed to have my mother still with me, while my husband must spend yet another mother’s day without his here with him.   It’s a bittersweet day for him wondering just how his mother would enjoy being with our five.

  (Phil’s sister Michelle, Brother Byron, Dad, Mom, Philena, Phil and brother Daniel)

Mother’s Day is bittersweet for me.  I do not have all of my children here with me.  We have two precious babies in Heaven and are in the adoption waiting process for our next little one.  I have five beautiful children filling my home with laughter and laundry. . .but there is now and will always be an empty spot in my heart, in the car and at the table.

The word “empty” brings out the psychologist in almost all of us.  Our diagnosis. . .Oh, yes, they feel empty because they don’t have children, a mother, or a spouse.  But one can have all of these things in their life and still be empty.  God created each of us with an empty, constant longing for something we cannot attain on our own.  God himself is the only thing that can fill an empty soul.  But do not confuse the longing for God with the vessel God creates to hold purpose in our lives.

The definition of “empty” as an adjective: containing
nothing; not filled or occupied. 

The good Lord creates vessels for His purpose and glory.  And when he is done with them. . .he takes them home.  Mission completed.  That vessel, or life still serves a purpose, even after they’ve gone home. Grandma’s life and death still teach me valuable lessons.  I wonder what kind of crazy she would call me knowing we are now farmers and we are adopting another. 

The peace that comes even with the missing and empty pieces in my life is knowing that God is in control.  Yes, I miss my little boy and girl.  I do not need to fill my “empty” with anything but God.  He fills me with his Joy.  But he also sets desires and longings in our soul.  The empty space at the table reminds me what we once had. . .what I wish would have been.  But it also reminds me that God knew long before I did that he would take home my William on June 6, 1997. 

For many, that empty is from the child that never was to be.  After years of infertility and loss. . .I begged God to take away the desire for children knowing I may never have them. 

The empty for some is in the loss of raising a child to adoption, or loss of custody.  

The empty and sorrow over abortion holds great for mothers who are now mature and live the would have, should have, and could have’s.

The chair that sits empty in my heart comes from a deep God given desire to bring another into our family to know and live for God.  Yes, I love with all my heart a baby that I’ve never met.  A baby that is most likely not even created yet.  I do not spend every waking moment trying to fill an empty with dreams of what could be.  I spend my day filling up. . .feeding, if you may. . .on Jesus, his promises, his sacrifice, his love, his grace, his mercy.  And through drinking his cup. . .I am filled with the love and desire to love on another.  A love that can’t help but overflow to the rescue and ransom of another child.

This mother’s day.  Many cringed as they watched women parade around with arms full of precious
ones.  Many remember their own mother and long for just one more hug.  Husbands watching others with their wives breath deep as their heart tries to mend after loss.  This day brings up the hurt, the
dirty, the empty.

God fills and mends every heart. And today. . .through sorrow, I have joy to know that each memory and dream the Lord has set in place, he knows the outcome.  And his plan. . .his story where I am just a drop in the bucket, all ends the same. With me in His arms.  Sweet, soft, safe and loving arms.  And every baby that has gone on before me will be right there. . .with me. 

Fall into His arms. . .let him take your burden, your sorrow, your shame, your desires, your longing to fill the empty.  This mother’s day. . .rest knowing the story ends one way.  His story is all that matters.  Let His joy fill your soul.