Love Wash Over

Love wash over a multitude of things

Jesus save us from a multitude of things

Make us whole.

There is a love that never fails
There is a healing that always prevails
There is a hope that whispers a vow
A promise to wait while we’re working it out
So come with your love and wash over us

When It Was Over by. Sara Groves

The last time I saw Sydney was July 17, 2011. It was after church. I went up to her and gave her a hug. She stayed seated and seemed weighed down. I knew she had not been feeling well. We talked for a bit.

She grabbed my hand and said that she would like for  me to come over to her house very soon. She wanted me to sit by her bed and just pray with her. I would have liked nothing more than to spend that special time together.

The next day, I got sick. It turned into a bad two-week summer cold which finally went away while I was at camp. The next week, we went to the beach to celebrate my girls birthday’s with my family. I got home to begin school on Monday August 15th as Sydney began radiation on August 17th.

Twelve days later, she was gone.

I did not get to sit by her bed. I did not get to pray with her.

Grieving is hard. It is like an unruly toddler. Some days it won’t come when it’s called. It is illusive and slips away. Then on other days it follows you around like a shadow. It grabs relentlessly at your pants leg, begging you to stop and bend down to pick it up.

Yesterday morning, I sat and let grief crawl up into my lap. I read countless emails that I have saved through the years and notes that Sydney and I had written to each other. I cried. I laughed. And I remembered.

I realized that our relationship has always been one of comfort and encouragement from a distance. Tons of emails, even before her diagnosis, that were prayers, verses, and words of love and affirmation.

I realized that though I did not get to sit with her in the last month like she wanted, that she was never farther away than a prayer.

Which is still true today.

When Faith Shall Be Sight

*taken at my friend’s grave side.

The family released Monarch Butterflies during a private burial service in honor of Sydney Gaylord’s life and death. I went on Friday to say goodbye to my friend. One of the butterflies stayed behind. I do not know if someone placed it there, but I found this one nestled into the white flowered cross Friday evening. Such a lovely picture.

Rest In Peace, Sweet Syd.

Psalm 91:1

“She who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.”

Letters To Sydney: One Brave Chick

Sydney Boone Gaylord

April 13, 1976 – August 29, 2011

January 2, 2009
Dear Syd,
I am sending you some songs and pictures that God has given me on my journey to remind me of His tender presence in the midst of such trial, suffering, and ‘seeming’ absenteeism. Sometimes the only place He can be found for me is in my iPod or my garden.

Too, I know I have tried to communicate this in such a floundering, helpless manner, but my heart is with you both in this prolonged season of testing. Coupled with the fact that I am a deep feeler by design and I have found such a deep, restful comfort in being your friend.

I am constantly amazed by how you can be so present and full of gentle anticipation and wonder with people. This has been such a gift to me. I am someone who has deep seeded fears of being known and being still with others. But, you have this God-given ability to make people relax and almost treasure the thing that brings them the most fear. This truly has been one of your gifts to a lost and hurting world.

Yesterday I went out by myself to try to get anchored and rooted after the shock of your diagnosis. In a parking lot, I wept deep tears for you and Todd before God. The Lord dealt with me gently and kindly said, “Carrie, you cannot take this away for Sydney and Todd. And you cannot take care of her. But I can. I am going to take care of Sydney. I promise. Your job is to love her, but not to carry her.”

So, I just wanted to let you know that I am trying to fight this overwhelming urge to ‘carrie’ you.:) Instead, I am going to offer you up to the One who can. I thank you for being in my life and giving me yet another opportunity to trust God and believe in His goodness.

I am reminded of when I spoke at my grandmother’s memorial service and looked up to see you and Todd in the balcony. I was so moved by you both being there, supporting me in my deep loss and sadness. Now I will look up again to the One who will do the same for us all. I will look up to the One who will carry and comfort us through this season.

I love you Syd. love to Todd, and the little cuties:)

soon and very soon,

September 1, 2011

Dear Sydney,

I have been reading the letter I wrote to you years ago because in a few hours, we will celebrate your life and lay your sweet body into the ground to rest and wait. I admit that the reason for my deep fear and what prompted me to write you that letter in the first place was because I was terrified of this day.

When Holly called to share with me your diagnosis, I had to sit down right in the middle of Barnes and Nobles. I was overwhelmed. I was afraid then and there that you were going to die. I was scared for Todd, the kids, and all of the rest of us who could not imagine life without you as part of our skyline.

I realize now, completely exhausted from all my tears shed over the past week, that racing to the end of the story that day was very short-sighted. Sitting there in the fiction section, I could not see all that God was going to speak with your life. He had used you so well in health, why would I think that would change in your sickness?

On that dreary December Day, I could not see that you would have almost a year and a half of feeling better than you ever had in the previous 33 years leading up to your diagnosis. I did not know that you would begin to wake up early, exercise, and LOVE it.

I could not see that you would go on to run half marathons(*read talk during half marathons), ride a bike across the state of Virginia, take spin classes, love Nascar, discover bird watching, keep painting, love your family and friends deeper, and continue to leave your fingerprints on many lives, especially those who were hurt and suffering.

I know it was hard for you to be sick and in so much pain. I am not trying to minimize the hellish nature of  a brain tumor and living with the fear that you may not get to age with Todd or watch your children grow up.

But, you did it Sydney. You ran the race with such tenacity and perseverance, and I am so proud of you. You dear, special, beautiful woman.

Remember in February when Todd asked me to come over with Lisa and Kelly to have dinner with you? You were in your wheel chair and we just chatted. You asked me how I was doing and what was new in my life. I told you that I was speaking at a large Womens conference April first. You began counting out loud and landed on seven.

“Sydney,” I said. “Seven what?”

“Seven weeks, Carrie. You speak in seven weeks. I’ll be walking by then.” you said.

I smiled and hoped for you.

And the night after that conference, you walked all by yourself into the restaurant for my birthday dinner.

So tenacious. So brave. So Sydney.

Sweet Syd,

These are the verses I’ve prayed for you since you got sick. Look at them now. I came across them in my fear one day and prayed them with a heart that pleaded to God that you would get well. I begged Him to heal you.

With these verses back in December, we cried out that He would give you back to us. And He did. You got better and for 7 months, you got to love all of those who loved you with a fullness that few can understand.

Now I see that His plan all along was to heal you.

So today we will shout for joy at your victory.

And we’ll shed tears because you are gone and will be missed terribly.

Love to you,

Carrie Luke

The Plot

Last Saturday, the girls and I packed up for a day trip to Campobello, SC in order to attend a family reunion. I remember going to this same plot of Morrow Family farm land as a child to celebrate many Easter Sundays. It’s quiet, open, and since it is nestled in the foothills, the mountains are ever before you.

I was happy to oblige and attend this gathering; they are good, cheerful people who love their fried chicken, creamy casseroles, and sweet tea. But, I had another incentive to travel that day.  3 miles from the farm is where we laid my grandmother to rest 2 1/2 years ago, and I had not been back since that beautiful fall Saturday in 2008.

I left the reunion by late afternoon and headed to the cemetery on our way out-of-town. Some parts of the drive seemed familiar and with other parts, I felt sure I had lost my way.

Being so distracted by making the proper turns, I was caught off guard by my tears as I drove up the hill that led into the heart of Evergreen.  I let them flow freely though. I miss her, and she was worth my tears of remembrance.

It is always interesting to see how children respond to their parents grief. I am not sure much else can make them feel more vulnerable and unsure. But, my kids knew that my “Memaw” was more like a parent to me and understood my heart being pierced by the loss and separation that death produces.

I gave my girls permission to stay in the van, but being team players, they wanted to help me find the family plot. I knew the general direction, but it can be like looking for a needle in a haystack.

I was thankful the weather was so lovely as I quietly stepped over names and dates I never knew. This place is a book of stories, I thought to myself.

Young men who died in war. Veterans who came home to see many more decades. Husbands whose wives were still living out their days. Children who died too young. Babies.

Being so lost in thought, I came up on it before I was prepared.

It is difficult to put words to being stunned by something you set out to see. But, when I saw her name etched in the plot beside her husband who died 6 weeks after I was born, I broke down.

My girls pointed and sweetly said, “Mom, we’re going to go sit on that bench over there.” I nodded so thankful for them at that moment.

Grief is so strange. It can be like an unruly toddler. You never know when it will come to you. You may call on tears for years and they just won’t obey. And then at other times, they are so present that they follow you around like a shadow.

I sat down at my grandmother’s grave and tried to take it all in. I looked at her dates laid out like the first and last chapter in the book of her life. I was overwhelmed with so many stories.

Things I had not thought about in years. It was difficult to accept her as old so there was much of the early years that got shelved in my memory towards the end.

Staring at her name, I was thankful for her imperfect love of me. Her home was a haven, and I wept with all that was in me for the part she played in the story of my life.

I took in the beauty of the mountains that surrounded me and thought of the lines to my friend Matt Auten’s song, NewFoundLand. He was kind enough to come and sing it when we had her burial service. I thought it fitting since it is a song about our first five minutes in Heaven.

Singing Silence, Laughing loneliness,

Sweet joy spilling on the mountain,

Spring is springing and I am smiling.

Grace lies before me like a New Found Land.

Casting off the remnants of these dead man’s garments

now I stand to breathe morning we were meant for

Further up and in with the rising wind

I look into the eyes of Him we died to live for

Come look into the eyes of Him we died to live for…

I got up and called my girls over. They were timid, but had no reason to fear. I smiled at them at gave and them a hug. As we walked, we chatted about how difficult it can be to spend time in a cemetery. My oldest stopped at the foot of a baby’s grave who had only lived a day.

“It’s so sad, Mom,” she agonized.

“I know, honey. It’s not meant to be this way. We say that death is a natural part of life, and it is in its inevitability. But we were not designed to feel such loss. It’s why grief is real because there is a severing in the soul when someone we are connected to dies.

I looked at them both and said, “But for us, those of us in Christ, this place is not the end. It’s more of a beginning. The beginning of Our Great Story where all things are made new and whole and clean.”

I was not trying to be trite. It is not a band-aid or wishful thinking.

Being in Christ is a life-preserver and the plot of my life.

“Glory to Jesus, Ancient and Strong

Giver of love and the theme of my Song.

Glory to Jesus, Ancient and Strong

Come to your people and carry us home.”

Andrew Peterson; Behold the Lamb of God.

Emmanuel. God with us.

December 27, 2010

It was two years ago today, that my friend was diagnosed with a significant brain tumor in her left frontal lobe. I remember exactly where I was when I received the call. I can recall vividly having to sit down in the middle of Barnes and Nobles because I was in shock and stunned to the deep parts of myself.  It was as if someone had knocked the wind out of me, and I was struggling desperately to catch my breath and regain control. As if I had control in the first place.

Last week, I received an email from her husband telling me that she wanted some Christmas music. She was now home from the hospital recovering from pneumonia and some complications from the swelling of the tumor.  After her diagnosis, I made her lots of music to try and convey my thoughts from a far since they had stayed in their home town with family trying to regain their footing after such a revelation.

Music has always had an uncanny knack of reaching into those undisclosed places in a unique way.  And I was at a complete loss of my own words, but had no shortage of fears, feelings, and desires for her to know that I was with her as much as possible. Even if I was afraid, which I was. And am.

So, the day before Christmas eve, I quietly knocked on the front door of their home bearing gifts. My friend’s husband let me in and led me to their room. The house was very quiet since the kids had been taken on an outing with their grandparents.

She was in bed resting, so I had to approach her from behind. I was very nervous. Would she recognize me? Would she be too tired to see me, and therefore aggravated by my intrusion? And what do you say in the face of so much suffering and sickness?

I leaned around the side of the bed, and smiled. She looked up at me, and grinned. We hugged and kissed each other on the cheek. Then she pulled me close to her and said, “Kiss me on the other side as well, I’m now greeting like the Europeans.”

I obliged happily, and  laughed at her ability to remain so unique. I gave her the CD’s and unwrapped a framed picture for her that I took this summer of a butterfly in all it’s glory. I said her name, held up the image and said, “This is you. And will always be you to me.”

We spent some time laughing and talking.  I tended to her needs very thankful for the moments I had spent with others who were sick.  I tried to follow her thoughts even when I did not understand. It was in the midst of our time together that I realized, I was no longer afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing. It was just good for me to be present with her and to meet her where she was. Acknowledging and being so sorry that she felt bad. And laughing with her because she is funny.

It was just like the text I had received from my friend Michelle whom I had asked to pray for my time. She wrote to me, “The ministry of presence is so huge. There is something it does for the soul that the Lord meant for us to give to one another.”

When I could tell that my friend was getting tired, I ran my fingers through her soft hair. I told her that I loved her and was going to let her get some rest.  She nodded her head and we hugged once more. I went on my way as quietly as I had entered.

Though I was not the same, for the word Emmanuel was upon my lips in a new, fresh way.  I thought again of Michelle’s words and the ministry of presence that one simple word communicates. Emmanuel. God with Us. With Me. In my sickness. In my sadness. In my lost places. In my loneliness.

In my joy. And in my glory.  Always. And Forever.

Luke 1: 78-79 “Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and to guide us to the path of peace.” (NLT)

It’s Not the Cleaning I’m After…It’s the Sweeping

My ‘Memaw'(grandmother) would say that when I asked her why she would take the time to sweep an entire driveway and two sidewalks for it only to get  dirty again. I never understood what she meant, until now. Now, that I am an adult with lots of responsibilities and tasks to accomplish everyday, I can fully appreciate a quiet moment. I see the value in a chore that will allow your mind to wander, and be at peace.

The other night, we had a cookout for our community group at the house. Since our labrador retriever lives on the front porch, it can get nasty. I took our broom, and went to sweep the entry way and the door mat where she likes to sleep. Once I finished the porch, I swept the steps and sidewalk. Immediately,  I heard it. That even, swishing sound of straw against brick and concrete. It was like music, and my ‘Memaw’ felt very close.

I pictured her ‘sweeping’ on a beautiful fall day when I was 10 years old and waiting on the steps for her to finish.  She said that she would play basketball with me when the job was done. She was a great basketball player and athlete.  She was an old school shooter, using both hands to bring the ball up from her chest. But, she hardly missed,  a shot or a game of mine. Whether it was soccer, baseball, or basketball.

This time of year is hard. It was in early August two years ago, that my uncle arranged for her to come to my mother’s house from the nursing home for both of my daughter’s  birthday party. While we were waiting, he said that he thought it was  the last trip for her. Her last trip home. She was beginning to fade. He was right, though I was angry at him for recognizing also.

Four weeks later, my husband and I stopped by the home so that I could tell her ‘goodnight.’ It was dark as I walked into her room. She was sleeping, and changed so much in a month.  It took me longer to get her attention. She opened her eyes for a minute, and said, “Hey.”

I held her hand, and she told me that she was tired. I asked her if she meant, sleepy. “No,” she said. “I am so tired.” I said that it was alright to be tired, but internally, it was not alright. For her to be tired or old. But, giving her my permission was my last gift to the woman who gave me so much. I told her I loved her, and walked out of the room. I began to cry, and fell into my husband’s arms like a child. Like the child that I was to her.

How could I have known in that moment, that  less than two weeks later, she would be gone. I’m so thankful that I was with her often in  that last month. Even when she took her last breath and drifted away from this earth.

But, more on that later. I have some sweeping to do.