Bittersweet

Today, November 15, is Rylen’s birthday. In earth years he is six. Such sweet memories of him mingled with the sadness (for me) of his Home-going last March. This is written from a grandmother’s heart.

BITTERSWEET

Little One–
When you arrived, we expected hello and goodbye the same day.
We wanted a miracle, we prayed for a miracle,
And God gave us a miracle–you.
On the day you were born, you came crying out of your mother’s womb.
You breathed for one minute, five minutes, sixty minutes…
An underdeveloped brain would shorten your life, they said.
In NICU we visited you, talked to you, touched you.
Your eyes followed us when we spoke to you,
You jumped at loud noises.
You cried, you drank milk from a tiny bottle.

Mommy and Daddy took you home to love and to care for.
We expected death; God gave you life.
We expected a funeral; God gave you a future.
Good hands, the best hands, God’s hands, held you close.
We waited and grieved, praying for a miracle, wishing for a miracle,
Reminding ourselves that God’s way is always best.
Isn’t it strange we grieved, even though we knew you’d be in a better place?
Your mommy and daddy, joyful, sad, and tired all at once,
Grateful for a short time with you, to have you,
To love you, to hold you.

Your body so tiny and fragile, your head so big and heavy,
We just wanted to hold you, to see you smile, to keep you here with us.
You struggled with pain, you couldn’t tell us where it hurt,
And we waited as each day passed–two weeks, four weeks, two months, four months, then seven.
You smiled, wiggled, babbled, and sang, watching the world with your eyes.
It took you a little longer to sit up, to crawl, to stand, and to walk.
But from the beginning, love poured out from you, for everyone you met.
“No strangers,” your dad said, “he knew only friends.”
And that million-dollar smile lit up the world around you.

Two years, four years, five years–you learned names, colors, the alphabet,
You explored the world, loving anything with wheels to turn or buttons to push.
The birth of your baby sister, your special treasure from the very beginning,
Your life as big brother took on new meaning,
Someone to hug and to tease, to play with and to fight with.
Your eyes told the story, your laughter causing us to smile.

Over five years we waited, to see where you could go.
You learned about Jesus and “Jesus Loves Me,”
Delighted each time you entered God’s House.
A new home, and school, and life to explore,
And we didn’t want to say goodbye.
We wanted a healing miracle, to see you grow up.
But that wasn’t to be. God wanted you Home.
We prayed for miracle, but God answered no.
We are grieving for you–no, grieving for us.
We miss you, Little One, our Rylen.

You are with Jesus, whole and happy,
No more pain, no more hydrocephalus.
Are you playing ball or riding a golf cart with Jesus?
Are you running, and jumping, and talking?
We remain on this earth,missing you,
Joyful, yet sad, remembering when you were with us,
Your sweet voice saying, “Hi,” your smile, your hugs,
Grateful we had you to love and to hold for a little while,
Awaiting the day we meet you in Heaven.

Happy birthday, Rylen.

Love, Grandma

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From Beginning to End

As a grandparent, I often consider my influence on my grandchildren. Am I a good role model for them? Will what I teach them through my attitudes, words, and actions help them to successfully navigate life?

We build on generational influences. Who I am today will impact the future in some way. Although I am not rich or famous, I can make a difference where I live and for those around me. And I believe the spiritual influence I have, my testimony for Jesus Christ, is the most important legacy I can leave my grandchildren and future generations.

I wrote this poem for the Montrose Christian Writers Conference several years ago.
It’s based on Hebrews 12:1,2.

FROM SOURCE TO PERFECTION         

From the beginning, before time’s dawn,
The wise, all-powerful, sovereign
Master Designer of the universe composed an eternal plan
Demonstrating His gracious and merciful love,
Revealing all He is.

At His chosen times, in His chosen places,
The Master Craftsman skillfully creates each link–
Molding, pounding, polishing, purifying,
Connecting generation to generation, person to person,
Perfecting us for His glory.

Not clinging to the past, but learning from the testimony
Of witnesses, urging us forward toward maturity,
Link by link, reaching toward the goal,
Our eyes on Jesus only, our Source, our Leader,
Bearing testimony of His truth.

 

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Invasive Species

The excessive rain this summer has not stopped the weeds and crabgrass from growing in my flower bed. The weeds are, in fact, quite healthy. However, some of the flowering plants, like the petunias, marigolds, and dianthus, have not fared as well–not enough sunshine.

I planted lemon balm last year. It has a wonderful, lemony fragrance, but I understand why some people consider it a weed. It’s slowly taking over the flower bed. I have to ruthlessly pull up lemon balm plants, along with the weeds, and discard them to allow other flowers to thrive. The black-eyed Susans are budding, but they, too, can get out of control.

Several years ago I learned about purple loosestrife. It’s an attractive plant with spikes of purple flowers. Native to Europe, it came to this country as a garden flower. It escaped cultivation and has taken over wetlands, crowding out native plants that feed wildlife. It is useless as a wildlife food and difficult to eradicate. Other invasive species are dangerous to people as well as to native plants and animals.

The weeds in the garden are like sin in my life. When I don’t take time for God’s Word and prayer, my life becomes weedy. Gossip, procrastination, wasting time with unimportant details take over. A critical attitude and bad thoughts lead to anger, frustration, and sometimes bitterness. Like the loosestrife and other invasive plant species, the longer I allow sin to invade my life, the harder it is to eradicate it.

God’s Word, Philippians 4:8, says to cultivate what is good in my life. “…whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy–meditate on these things.” (NKJV) Thinking right leads to doing right.

I want the garden of my life to reflect the beauty of Christ and bear the fruit of the Spirit as I meditate on His Word.

 

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A Day of Remembrance

I didn’t say “Happy Memorial Day” this year. Memorial Day is not a day of celebration but of commemoration, remembering the American dead–those who have served in the military and those who have died in war.

I’ve never been to Washington, D.C., to view the monuments there, although one day I may. The Wall that Heals Vietnam Memorial Replica came to Oneonta for Memorial Day weekend. Frank and I were very moved as we viewed the wall and memorial display. We came of age during the Viet Nam Conflict. Although the people closest to us did not serve or die there, we know men who left the security our our country, leaving behind family and friends and future plans. These were not just names that died. They were people, mostly men, who gave their lives in service to our country. And we know that when the living soldiers returned home, many of them suffered name-calling and mistreatment by their fellow-Americans who did not agree with the war. Perhaps it was a conflict we should never have entered, and we know that innocent people lost their lives, but I, for one, am glad we are remembering the Viet Nam veterans for their service and sacrifice.

Each generation alive today has shared in an international conflict in some way, more recently Iraq and Afghanistan. Soldiers, men and women, have returned home suffering from physical injury, loss of comrades-in-arms, and PTSD. They struggle to reenter society and their families. Without jobs they struggle financially. Mentally and emotionally they struggle to accept their lives on home soil after the atrocities of war they have viewed and experienced. Some are left homeless and friendless.

Can we reach out to a vet we know, or to a family who has lost a loved one in combat, to show we care and recognize their sacrifice?

I think it’s okay to have picnics and be with family and friends on Memorial Day. But I like to remember why this holiday is on our calendars. Parents brought their children to the memorial in Oneonta. The ancient Israelites were told to teach their children, each generation teaching the next. Isn’t it our responsibility to do the same? Freedom isn’t free–that’s truth. We are not a perfect people, but we have something worthy of our hard work and sacrifice.

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Legacy

“Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime.
And departing, leave behind us,
Footprints on the sands of time.” -Longfellow (I think)

I remember this stanza of poetry on a get well card I received after surgery in 1960, when I was nine years old.

In 1982 my father passed away. At 72, he left a legacy of love, family, and friendships. Today his legacy continues through his children, grandchildren, and on through the fifth generation.

Since our grandson Rylen passed away in March, a cloud of grief has overshadowed me. I sometimes think about what might have been, what he might have accomplished, who he might have married, who his children might become. I know the sadness will pass, as it did after Dad died. Grief has no time limits, but life goes forward. And even with the assurance that he is with God in heaven, we all miss him.

At five years old, what kind of legacy does a person leave? What kind of footprints do you leave on the “sands of time”?

Like his grandfather, Rylen gave a lot of love. He never met a stranger, only friends. He loved his parents and sister, his extended family, and he had lots of friends. His million-dollar smile would light up the room. His sweet “hi” made the day brighter

My heart was touched by the story of a little boy Rylen met in preschool. This little boy went to see Rylen in the hospital. After a specialist explained the situation to him, he donned a gown and mask, went into the PICU room, saw the machines attached to Rylen’s body, laid his hand on Rylen’s for a few minutes, then left. When asked why he wanted to do this, the little boy said, “Because Rylen was my friend.”

Rylen made many friends. He approached life with curiosity. He knew the alphabet. He loved trains and other wheeled vehicles, and electronic devices. He loved music. Time and time again he would return to my piano when he visited. He loved to sing. He loved his sister, and liked to tease her.

These things do not sound unusual for a five-year-old. But Rylen had a physical and mental challenge: hydocephalus. His life expectancy was unknown. Instead of living the expected five minutes after birth, Rylen lived over five years. Caring for him wasn’t always easy, but I know his parents wouldn’t have traded one minute of the five plus years they spent with him.

So this little boy has left behind a legacy of love and friendship. Six people received his body organs: two adults his kidneys, two children his heart valves, and two children his corneas. Through his blog, countless lives have been touched, and through a foundation set up in his name, more will benefit.

Rylen’s physical presence has left us, but he is still with us. His memory is glued in my heart. His legacy continues, not as a great man, but as a wonderful little boy, God’s gift to us for over five years.

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Sorrow revisited

The little voice from the top of the stairs said, “One..whee…two whee.” Our grandson, visiting with his family from Texas, had learned to come down the stairs on his bottom, counting along the way. He entered the living room with a sweet, “Hi, Grandma,” and a hug.

“I love you, Rylen,” I said, as I hugged him back.

Then it was on to Grandpa. “Hi, Grandpa.” He crawled up on Grandpa’s lap and snugggled under the blanket with him.

This had become a morning ritual during the week he spent with us in November.

We have had the privilege of seeing Rylen grow and fight the physical and mental challenges that he has met every day since he was born with hydrocephalus. And to watch the faith and commitment of his parents as they cared for him.

Before his birth the doctors predicted he would not survive. And we sorrowed. But he has lived for five-and-one-half years. A sweet, friendly little boy, who loves things with wheels and buttons. Who loves his little sister, and loves new experiences.

He began preschool in January. He loved school.

He is now fighting for his life in the hospital. We are sad for his pain and suffering. We are sad because we will no longer hear, “Hi, Grandma. Hi Grandpa.” He is totally in God’s hands.

In his short life, Rylen has touched the hearts of many people And I am sure he will continue to do so. But we are sorrowing again, and thankful for the prayers of so many for all of us.

Love your children while they are yours to love. Hug them and say “I love you” everyday.

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Love means action, not just romantic thoughts

I’ve thought a lot about the meaning of Valentine’s Day. We have never made a lot of the day since grade school. We commemorate it in small ways: cards, chocolates, flowers, maybe a special dessert.

Many celebrate romantic love on Valentine’s Day. I believe that we should also celebrate the love between friends and relatives. There are some pretty sappy expressions of love, but true love comes from God, for God is love.

True love means action, just as God showed His love for us by sending His Son to die for our sins and rise again to give us eternal life. The apostle John expressed it this way in his first letter: 1John 3:1 “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God.” – 3:16 “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us.” – 4:7 “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God, and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.” – 4:19 “We love Him because He first loved us.”

Showing love is for everyday. A telephone call, a note, a visit, or any other act of kindness can be love in action. We can always find someone to reach out to in love. Valentine’s Day is for everyone, whether married or single, old or young.

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