OUR LONG GOOD-BY By Lori A Alicea

Four years ago this October God blessed David and I with an anniversary gift, yet didn’t realize it at the time.

Four years ago we were planning our romantic anniversary getaway to our quiet honeymoon place on the lake, only to find there were no vacancies for the full month of October.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

This had never happened to us after celebrating most of our wedding anniversaries here at our quaint bed and breakfast hideaway for two.  We opted for an earlier stay in September, but thought it quite odd after twenty-two years of October reservations, there were no weekends available during this off-season for us.

Gifts come wrapped in paper that don’t always appear as gifts on first glance.

God’s anniversary gift to us that October weekend amazingly was keeping us home, though our hearts longed our special stay overlooking the lake.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

David and I felt out of place being home that October weekend, and eerily, we both felt like something was terribly wrong, yet didn’t know what.

We went thru our day as usual but kept asking each other, “Do you sense God trying to get our attention but can’t figure out why?”  We both nodded our yes.

By the end of the evening, God’s voice became too loud to ignore and panic immediately struck.  David grabbed his keys and yelled, “Somethings wrong with mom, let’s go.”

Living one street over from our mother made getting to her in seconds.  But she wasn’t answering our calls; the loud pounding on the front door or bedroom window either.  Our fear level was rising.

Busting down the door should have been our next response, but we drove to my sister’s house for the keys instead, quite possibly wasting precious time.

Bombarding heaven in prayer while driving back to our mothers, we believed for the best while preparing our hearts for the absolute worst.

I couldn’t go in.

David stormed mother’s room to find her barely alive, but alive she still was.

An anniversary gift we didn’t expect.

God knew in advance our mother’s plight and His love for her kept us home that October when in years past, we would have been away celebrating our love and life together.

That weekend doctors confirmed our mother wouldn’t be coming home to the home she once knew, and hence, mother’s life would become a million packed boxes and an hourglass of descending grains of sands slowly keeping time for Our Long Good-by.

Good-by as a family with their mother began four years ago during the holiday season I journaled in the following blog.

After that first holiday season, my journal finds its place and returns to the final months of Our Long Good-by with mom.

ethan praying

ONE FINAL HOLIDAY WALK THRU 
By Lori A Alicea

Another holiday season is greeting front doors everywhere and gathering around Thanksgiving tables as done in Thanksgiving pasts will be families, friends and loved ones giving their heart-filled thanks for those seated beside them.

Families will share a meal over turkey, stuffing, candied yams, pumpkin pies and all the trimmings, and the bustle of life stops for a brief few hours when personal inventories are taken when you look around the crowded holiday room and remind yourself how blessed you truly are.

While a Hallmark Christmas card doesn’t quite paint the picture perfect family behind most front doors, mine included.  The sentiment of the season though rises in the hearts of most who treasure family and its gatherings.

Holidays are also viewed though thru windows that peek into our family sadness when traditions change or grief and loss that overcomes with that empty seat at the dinner table for the first time this year.

For adults who remain “kids at heart” holding onto those family members who gave them their Norman Rockwell memories, it’s hard to turn the page to a new chapter of holiday traditions, when they cling to the old ones like a favorite teddy bear.

Holiday change is inevitable as our grandparents and parents age before us, passing the holiday torch to the next generation in their inability to keep the traditions going.

While this year isn’t a holiday first for our family, after finally disbursing the treasures of mother’s home though after being in storage for a year, the reality has finally sunk in that we as a family won’t be going “home” for Thanksgiving and Christmas anymore.

The face and heart behind our family Thanksgiving and Christmas traditions has had an address change needing twenty-four hour medical care, ending her reign as the author of our holiday picture albums.
face of our holidays

As ‘tis the season of being thankful, this “kid at heart” takes ONE FINAL HOLIDAY WALK THRU of  “home” during her Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations past.

At mother’s house you are always welcome.
welcome

Whether friend, family or stranger; announced or unannounced, mother lit up when the door bell rang.

Her humble home, a single wide trailer shared with her husband Roger until he passed away a few years before she closed the doors for good, was “home” nevertheless.
IMG_5245

Every room spelled m-o-m as her touch was in the details of her things.
I love mom

Family meant everything to mother, whose love had no bounds.

She adopted her daughter’s best friend as her own who in turn called her mom.
IMG_5269

This friend with small children through their years into adulthood, referred to our mother as grandma.

We adopted into our hearts this friend’s parents who we loved deeply and embraced as nanny and papa.
Because of love, our family tree bloomed and thrived enlarging hearts and family ties.
IMG_5257

Mother raised her children to love and serve God, the foundation that gave our family hope during those storms of hard times.
hope

But it was during the holiday season of Thanksgiving and Christmas when going “home” re-opened the storybook of our childhood memories each year.

I still see dad watching the Macy’s Parade on TV in his recliner while mom prepared the turkey and all the fixins in the kitchen.

Like yesterday, I imagine the dinner table decorated and set in dad’s garage, seating all of us and our grandparents on both sides.
thanksgiving pic when I was a kid USE

Growing up our Christmas tree wasn’t filled with expensive toys wrapped beneath it.  With six children there wasn’t money enough for that; but there was so much more.
my christmas with matching jammies

The traditions of a kitchen full of elves making various batches of homemade cookies with sprinkles landing everywhere.

There were those fifty-plus glittered Christmas cards we received in the mail and hung on a red chain down the railing of the stairs.

Sure can’t forget our church Christmas plays and getting that brown sack of miscellaneous nuts, fruits and holiday candy as you left the sanctuary.

Mother’s homemade coffee cake served warm on Christmas morning became a holiday favorite memory, a tradition I passed to my family.

The gift of Christmas around the tree with my four sisters, brother and parents was the best gift wrapped that day.
IMG_5271

Thanksgiving and Christmas past replay in the back of my mind as this grown up kid enjoys the seasons of holidays when her children were small.
IMG_5236

Holidays that replay in my mind with my adult children who now have children of their own.

Hearing the electric knife carving our holiday ham and turkey is the dinner bell reminder that a feast is about to be served.

For a family our size in a small single wide trailer, tables are set up in the kitchen, living room and bedrooms. There’s the senior table, the kid’s table and the table for everyone else.  A bit crowded but you’re “home” and that’s all that matters.

So many faces to see during the holidays, some arriving when the military allows, or sadly arriving on Skype instead.
IMG_5276

On Christmas Day there are all those presents to unwrap.

Then there are those hilarious relatives who never pay attention during gifts.

Can’t forget about that game of cards for anyone who dares to sit opposite a card-shark grandmother after dinner.
IMG_5035

Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas though without that angel found sitting in her Lazyboy;
the centerpiece of our holidays.

Mother taught us how to make the holidays magical, and now our children are making the seasons bright in their own homes, all because our family matriarch had a special heart for Christmas.

Two years ago at this time, mother’s address changed as so did our holidays and traditions.

Holidays are now shared between the sisters with this year being at my house, and while we decorate, bake, serve the best feasts and still shuffle those cards after dinner, nothing comes close or compares to going “home” for the holidays.

Before handing over the keys of “home”, my heart needed ONE FINAL HOLIDAY WALK THRU of mother’s house.

Walking through the halls you were deafened by its silence.  The walls were eerie quiet with nothing to say, when before the decibel level was joyfully loud.

Aching over the empty rooms I couldn’t imagine life without our family there to enjoy them.

How I wanted to set out mother’s Christmas decorations just one more time.

We as a family grieve over the empty chairs of loved ones we once shared the holidays with, whose health or life with Christ keeps them away.  We miss them so  terribly.

Sadly, mother’s “home” is all packed up now and the front door has closed for the very last time.
boxes of moms stuff

Something shifts when the tradition torch is passed to the next generation.

The magic and the memories remain in your heart, but a shift takes place and has to make room for the new traditions beyond the Christmas present.

My heart overflows with thankfulness nevertheless this Thanksgiving season with the joy of the Lord, as He is the source of all my true hope and love.

I am thankful for my memories.

I look forward to new traditions and memories also.

I am a blessed woman.

This Thanksgiving I will once again take inventory of all my blessings and rejoice for the riches of heaven in my home.

I pray that my mother’s holiday legacy lives on in my brother and sister’s lives as well as mine passed to the grandchildren and great-grandchildren and beyond.

May we all be thankful for what God has done and is still doing in our life.

May we remember and hold close to our heart the true

REASON FOR THE SEASON

Which is Christ Jesus our Lord


Four years later…

The hourglass sands are still keeping time with Our Long Good-bye.

Mother is still with us four years later, but our days with mother changes as her health does, though she never complains.

Through these last four years mother has been able to attend our family events, which lit up a little girl’s day like a Christmas tree.  The nursing home hairdresser has been overly kind to fix mother’s hair on his days off and the salon coordinated her nail polish with mother’s red hair and lipstick.  Mother’s joy to “bust out” of those four walls for the day was evident in her smile, but we sensed the silence in bringing her back.  Just recently mother was planning her health comeback to attend our Thanksgiving festivities.  Yes, mom was all about the holidays.

78227FD9-466F-4B2F-9805-9176DC4961B5

E2CCB7B0-AC9A-4B40-8FEA-BFBA375247AF
Mother turned eighty years young this past July.

Mother wanted a party and a party she got.

decoration - sign

A Princess for A Day Event

decorations crown 1

With the unusual circumstances of the year, mother had to enjoy watching her 80th celebration from the nursing home window.  But mother didn’t care. Our Princess seated regally on her throne, watched from her front row seat the royal carpet rolled out before her.

It was a day like no other.

window - mom

God gave us an unforgettable gift in Our Long Good-by;  A Perfect Day.

guests - moms family

5070B68B-AF7E-4FC2-9F0D-94F3EEBC9E72
Amazing how a few months can change from a perfect day to weeks of uncertainty.

Our Long Good-by finds us now keeping vigil by mother’s window.

88505FFE-385D-4906-8991-0FA09D204F77

460C51B2-D7A9-4636-88A2-4BA2C33E5F0F

1B0FCD96-53C4-4232-B139-B9FE852C20E3

2E4DAC7F-6DEF-4EB1-84D4-2B2E98E1E479

IMG_2437The hourglass has nearly emptied its sands, signaling a close to Our Long Good-by.

Mother struggled to hear and carry on a faint conversation with us for as many days as she could.  In the end we continued to hold our end of the conversation, trusting in some way she was keeping up on hers.

With this year of restrictions, we children and grandchildren felt cheated and robbed of holding our beloved’s hand during these last remaining moments with her on this earth while heaven prepared to receive their newest angel.

But we count it all joy and rejoice for her eighty years of a wonderful life well lived before us, not lamenting for what we wish her last days could be; instead remembering the perfect day we recently spent together on her birthday.

Our Long Good-by has been a gift many don’t receive before their loved one enters eternity.

We have been given four extra years to enjoy our mother, to appreciate and value her and tell her so while she was alive to receive our gratitude; not at a memorial service where our words come too late.

A year ago mother looked so beautiful at our 25th Wedding Anniversary; probably the best I’d ever seen.

IMG_4265

On this anniversary day, God was still handing out anniversary gifts for Our Long Good-by.

Of all the pictures I have with mom, this has to be my favorite.

The gift of family is all mother ever wanted.

25th anniversary family table

Thank you God for 80 wonderful years with our mother.  She gave us life, our memories, and an introduction to your son Jesus for which we are most grateful, because we will spend eternity together in our saying “yes” to Him.

Yes, we will see her again.

Our Long Good-by is just a pause until Our Grand Hello in Heaven.

Until then, keep watch over us mother if there is a window to look thru in heaven.

window - mom

I kinda doubt it as you will be much too busy walking the streets of gold with Jesus.

Give our sisters Belinda and Mary a hug.  Tell them they only have you to themselves for a short time.  Make sure you’re nice to Roger too.

Welcome Home Mom!
Welcome Home!

In your absence, this light I once planted under your nursing home window so you could think of us in your loneliness, is now planted in my small garden so I might think of you in mine.

ABB39CA7-19A1-4694-872D-7580CB3B6D5D

No one knows when their hour will come… Ecclesiastes 9:12 NIV

Enjoy today filled to the rim with pure joy, without regrets and keeping short accounts with others, as the sun setting at dusk might be goodbye.

6137B8C6-EEA8-4E00-84A2-78CA17079D4F

THEIR LIGHT STILL SHINES By Lori A Alicea

A Sympathy Card

For those who lost…

A husband, a wife,
A brother, a sister,
A friend, a son, a daughter,
A mother, father, aunt or uncle, cousin,
A classmate, a co-worker, a neighbor,
A stranger you noticed every day,
Any one you shared life with,

But lost during this pandemic year of 2020.

These expressed words are my condolences
To your family that they might bring comfort
In your most difficult hour.

Love bridges the miles that separate us.
Love knows no stranger.
Love reaches out to those who hurt.

I’m reaching out a stranger,
While reaching out a friend.
To fill your grieving cup,
With hope, with promise.

To extend an arm of comfort,
To lift you up during a time
When the unimaginable weight of your loss
Is too much to bear alone.

My sympathy’s in your hour of great need…

Might you be blanketed…
Might you be surrounded…
With “the peace
That passeth all understanding.”

THEIR LIGHT STILL SHINES
By Lori A Alicea

Each light, a life, a name held close,
Burns bright their memory.
In silence we remember those,
Called home to be with Thee.

The brilliance of so many names,
A darkened night broke through.
Appears a starry sky but yet,
My eyes see only you.

lighted candle
Photo by Rahul on Pexels.com

Behind, you left an empty seat,
Behind, you left your light.
Your memories remain with us,
They comfort in the night.

greyscale photography of lamp on floor
Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

Their names, lit dim mere months ago,
The roll calls just a few.
The flicker soon becomes a flame,
Your name was added too.

blur burn burning burnt
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Then one by one another name,
A life, a candle lit.

tealight candle lit up
Photo by Mohammad reza Fathian on Pexels.com

This scene it takes away one’s breath,
And overwhelms to sit.

man sitting beside building
Photo by Alex Azabache on Pexels.com

Each light released into Thy hands,
Good-by this side of night.
Our loss, eternity has gained,
Released towards heaven’s sight.

bright celebration crowd dark
Photo by Abby Kihano on Pexels.com

The window of my heart remains,
Your light my eyes can see.

pillar candle near clear glass window
Photo by Rene Asmussen on Pexels.com

Your light still shines the midnight hour,
There’s peace, you rest with THEE.

lighted candle
Photo by Rahul on Pexels.com

And the peace of God,
which passeth all understanding,
shall keep you hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:7 KJV

I’VE GOT THIS By Lori A Alicea

We all have to face that day.
Not one of us is immune or safe from that day.
You can’t block the unexpected phone call from shattering your world.
You can’t hide in a closet from the pain that is coming.
There’s no road far enough to run from the news that will change everything.
No amount of pretending will shield you from the arrows of heartache.
If today is that day
and the pain is too great to wrap your arms around it,
I’VE GOT THIS.

Until we see Jesus there will be that day.
We live.  We die.  We fall down in between.
For every hello there is a goodbye on hold.
There’s no Band-Aid big enough to prevent a heart’s bleeding.
There’s no dam strong enough to hold back the flooding of tears.
There are no words to answer your pleading “Why?”
If you’ve been swept away into this ocean of sorrow,
I’VE GOT YOU.

If today is that day:
Your Heavenly Father’s GOT THIS.
Your Heavenly Father’s GOT YOU.

Take comfort this day.  The one who created the heavens and earth, the one who spoke every star into place with his voice, sees all things and knows all things.
He holds the universe in His hands.
He holds you in his hands.

In him all things hold together.  Colossians 1:17 NIV

HE’S GOT THIS.

 Your Heavenly Father’s also GOT YOU. 
God is so close to our mourning.
He grieves for all of our tears.
So much so that:

You keep track of all my sorrows,
You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
You have recorded each one in your book.”  Psalms 56:8 NIV

Your Heavenly Father’s also GOT YOU in your tomorrow.
He never leaves us nor forsakes us; especially when we’re hurting.
That day will end and tomorrow is coming.
Take comfort, He will always turn your sorrow into joy:

… weeping may stay for the night,
but rejoicing comes in the morning.  Psalm 30:5 NIV

Ashleighs picture.jpg

HE’S GOT YOU
By Lori A Alicea

Your life we celebrate this day,
Twelve years, although were few.
Remembering the days you lived,
And plan He had for you.

Our arms are void of your embrace,
Our hearts, you now reside.
Rejoice the Father’s GOT YOU now,
His arms you rest inside.