TOGETHER…and always…By Lori Alicea

You know her…

That girl you grew up with and led inseparable lives from morning ‘till night, until the dinner bell rang her home.

That girl whose shadow followed you from the swings to the monkey bars of the playground, where one was never seen without the other.

KIZZIE ROSALEE same seat

That girl who shared a pea in your pod; and everything glitter from your imaginations.

That fun loving girl whose zest was that added ingredient from the spice rack of your friendship.

That Together…and always

You both…

Lived well,
Laughed often,
and loved much;
By Bessie Anderson Stanley

KIZZIE ROSALEE holding hands walking

You know her…

That sister…
That daughter…
That neighbor…
That confidant…
That co-worker…
That neighbor…
That pen-pal…
That cousin…

That one person completely opposite and day-and-night from you;

Yet that one person who filled in the chapter blanks of your once in a lifetime friendship.

A relationship written and framed around these words…

Friends are kisses blown to us by angels.
Anonymous

Eleanor Roosevelt
Said it even better…

Many people will walk in and out of your life,
But only true friends will leave footprints in your heart.

Together…and always…

Friends are a treasure trove of unopened surprises.
Rosalee Kizzie on boat 1
Friends see the world through each others eyes…
Rosalee Kizzie on boat 2
Friends hear their song played in a different key.
Friends interpret life in a dance all their own.

Friendship is an adventure willing to take an uncharted journey to an unknown destination; as the travels of friendship finds you…

Together…and always…

That girl who smiles in the calm and still found by your side when the swells overtake is a friend…

who sticks closer than a brother.
Proverbs 18:24 NIV

As seasons take their turn to keep watch during winter…spring…summer and fall…

Friendships must keep watch during those seasons which hand over the baton and changing of the guard.
Mountain view
The unexpected visitor of good-bye shows up unannounced and without warning sometimes…

Summer camp is over…
Leaving for college…
A job change…
Moving…
Marriage…

Death…of a friendship…
Death…of one of us…
Rosalee Kizzie hugging
The sun may go down on the friendship between you and that girl, but friendships are never forgotten in the night…as morning always remembers.

The distance of miles may separate but the longing for one another keeps you close at heart.

Friends are worth the adventure, worth the risk of the swell.
KIZZIE ROSALEE waves
While the picture of my friendships might not resemble a class reunion.

I have been blessed with a few snapshots handpicked by God for me to share life and death with, marriage and divorce with, kids and college with, and so much more.

These Godly friendships pour into the cups of each other’s lives while sitting across the table from one another over coffee.

These God-like friendships are sometimes infrequent calls, yet pick up right where we left off from the last conversation.

Friendships that remember me every Monday evening after dinner for years just to say hello and end with an “I love you.”

Million dollar friendships I can’t wait to re-kindle when we cross paths again on the golden streets of heaven.

Friendships that know when my refrigerator and finances are unexpectedly low, and unload their overflowing trunks to restock me once again.

True friends whose hands refuse to let me go in my pain and emptiness.

true friends that leave their footprints in your heart.
Eleanor Roosevelt
KIZZIE ROSALEE holding hands water keep
God continues to fill my basket with friends who need me and they in return.

Who…

Together…and always

Lived well,
Laughed often,
and loved much;
By Bessie Anderson Stanley

SO MANY GOOD-BYES By Lori A Alicea

A quiet morning sitting along the shoreline beach of Hawaii, a picturesque view where my six-year old granddaughter feeds the waves with sand food served from a menu of her imagination; an hour of calm for me as the ocean soothes the soles of my weary feet with every wave that crashes up against them.
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Sometimes the weight of heavy burdens takes its toll on our feet which does its best to keep us standing strong, as burdens though were never meant to be carried.  But every now and then God sits his children down beside the shores of cool water and allows the singing and washing of the waves minister gently to our tired spirit.

It’s been a year like no other; adding the weight of the recent month just passed of so many good-byes, so many tears poured out remembering another loved one.  A mother…a brother ‘n law and now a brother. Navigating grief that maiden year of so many “firsts” presents itself without a map which adds to the pain.   Magnify that voyage times three and your shoulders buckle under weight of heartache.  

I once read that…

Grief never ends…but it changes.
It’s a passage not a place to stay.
Grief is not a sign of weakness nor a lack of faith..
It is the price of love.
Author Unknown.

Better to love than never love at all;
Remembering the price of love will one day be paid in our parting good-bye.

The price of love recently expressed from my brother’s wife…
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How I miss you baby.
The flesh in me just wants you back for one more kiss, 
One more hug and one more I love you.

I feel so empty, but after 46 years with this beautiful man, how else could I feel.
Until we meet again baby, I will carry you in my heart forever.

You made my life complete.
Love you and miss you so much.

Your wife…

This trip to Hawaii was an unexpected one for me; a trip actually scheduled for someone else.  But plans changed; life’s wisdom to always have a bag packed when God’s calendar reveals a secret.

Accompanying my granddaughter home after a three week stay with family came as I gift God knew I needed; while His reasons have yet to be unveiled.  
IMG_2918

Though a ten hour flight and a five hour time difference, all these good-byes can’t be abandoned in baggage claim.

The luggage of our heavy hearts must be unpacked.

We must be willing to open the luggage of our good-bye, hold what’s inside, savor the moments and in time unique to each, be willing to put away our bags, and leave the intersection of Holding On and step into the street of Moving Forward.

But as my Father sits beside the shores of cool water with me and allows the singing and washing of waves to minister to my tired spirit.

I hear Him gently reminding me…

Be willing with…

One moment at a time… 
One breath at a time…
One step at a time…
One memory at a time…

and 

Let Him shoulder the rest.

THE RACE MUST CONTINUE!  By Lori A Alicea

My brother has loved the races all his life; in particular,
The Indianapolis 500.

Maybe the raceway takes him back
To the driveway playing with Matchbox cars as a young boy.

Maybe my brother never outgrew the need for speed.

Maybe the thrill for fast and furious was in his blood.

Maybe he kept those engines running in his model car collection.

Maybe the Indianapolis 500 replays those old 8 millimeter movies of Dad taking his son to the Indy Time Trials, and then sharing race day together come Memorial Weekend.

The Indy Time Trials was an annual getaway for dad and my brother.

Mother would always send a cooler full of food, making sure a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken accompanied the trip.

Packed air mattresses were a mystery since dad drove a Volkswagen Beetle, but they were packed nevertheless.

We five sisters never felt slighted when dad left us behind for a man’s weekend with our brother. Maybe all it took was dad loading up the station wagon one Saturday night with us young girls carrying packed lunch boxes to the noisy drag strip to scar us for the races.

But the Indianapolis 500 was always their day, and we celebrated that memory for them.

Even after the passage of time when dad and my brother watched the race from the comfort of their own state and La-Z-Boy, the telephone kept their annual getaway alive for 500 miles each Memorial Day, until dad passed away a few years ago, and my brother, a few days ago, as a kiss from God, on race day.

mark connie at indy 500

This past Memorial Day, the crowds were on their feet cheering in a deafening decibel as the checkered flag is waved with great enthusiasm as my brother crosses his own finish line with this announcement blaring in the stands,

I have fought the good fight,
I have finished the race,
I have kept the faith.
2 Timothy 4:7 NIV19CAA216-6F52-4490-99DB-185DA7EA55D9

Sporting a giant flowered wreath after the win and keeping with tradition a swallow of ice-cold milk, our brother holds the milk bottle to that great cloud of witnesses of his life in declaration,

THE RACE MUST CONTINUE!

My brother was never a quitter.

He fought with every lap around the racetrack.

He honored those fans that fought for him in prayer
During the most difficult race of his life in a personal text message to me,

It’s all because of the prayer warriors
I have like you.
So Christ-like.
I love you.
Mark Houle

My brother’s memory is now waving the flags to encourage us
As we continue our race.

The green flag is waved for the start or restart of our individual races.
Start your engines.”
Start your race with prayer.”

My brother was never shy about prayer.

Brother’s prayers were War and Peace in length which meant our holiday meal was blessed but also cold as ice when mother without question, called on him to pray over dinner.

While pregnant with my first child and attending a tent revival complete with straw beneath our feet in 1983. My brother led me to an old fashioned altar to pray over his sister before she journeyed this new race of motherhood, speaking the sweetest blessings over me and my unborn son.

Stay in your lane.”
Stay in prayer.”

As the yellow flag of caution and hazardous conditions
Will eventually be waved and find you leaving the race for a pit-stop.

Six years later after my brother’s tent revival prayers,

The yellow flag goes up as the engine of my heart overheats during a car failure of my life. In the pit-stop with no place to go and having never been on my own before, I remember lamenting with my brother among the pit crew asking if my small children and I could live with him in Texas.

After an inspection under the hood, my brother and pit crew sent me back into the race, knowing Jesus had taken the wheel long ago when I said “yes” to him as a teenager, who would never steer me into the wall as long as I continued to stay in the race, stay in my lane.

Regardless if our race has unnumbered miles ahead, my brother waves the white flag to remind every driver to brace the wheel as if your race’s final lap is before you, as no one knows when the angel of death will come.

Lord, teach us to number our days,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
Psalm 90:12 NIV

The reality of eternity weighed heavy on my brother for lost souls and his deep compassion for their eternal destination presented itself in a play at the church he attended,

Heaven’s Gates & Hell’s Flames
By Reality Outreach Ministries.

In this play the ache of my brother’s heart cried out to those he desperately wanted to share heaven with.

Do you have a relationship with Jesus?”
Where will you spend eternity?”
The fiery flames of Hell are real!”
Is your name written in Book of Life?”
Being a good person won’t save you.”
Don’t worry about what your friends will say.”
You are only guaranteed this moment in front of you.”

Choose you this day whom you will serve…
Joshua 24:15 KJV

My brother finished his race.

My brother kept his faith.

Just a week ago my brother was waved the white flag signifying the final lap of his race.

But his life’s message lives on in our races when he,

Sported a giant flowered wreath after his win and kept with tradition a swallow of ice-cold milk, and held the milk bottle to that great cloud of witnesses of his life in declaration,

THE RACE MUST CONTINUE!
IMG_0411
Your memory will forever hang from the rear view mirror of my life
As I continue the race before me.

Your sister,
Lori A Alicea

MOTHERS LOVE, When it Hurts  By Lori A Alicea

Buried in the fine print of loving others,
Spells out the risks we take when giving our hearts away…

In parenting…
In friendships…
In families…
In marriage…

That to be a parent, a friend, a family member, or spouse,

We’re vulnerable to
The “what if’s”,
The risks,

When sharing a piece of our heart with another.

While playing my hand safe in most areas of my life, I’ve always taken the risk and jumped off the deep end into relationships, giving the best of me while learning to swim when I found myself in waters way over my head.

Looking for a lifeline when a twenty-one year old version of myself, rocks her first child in the middle of the night. A newborn helpless and dependent on me for everything, I had to get this mothering thing right for his sake and for my daughter who is born to us five years later.

21 CANDY JAKE 010

In over my head I’d risk it all for two children who’d be waving me good-by in eighteen years for a life of their own.
a family cumbee family2019 england jake graduation 20

Mother’s don’t read the fine print of parenting; she willingly risks the tears of her heart through her children’s scrapes, their falls, their fails, their challenges, their growing up, and yes, their leaving because:

Mothers love when it hurts.

My mother loved this way six times over through the lives of her son and five beautiful daughters.

In over her head and floundering for a lifeline, a sixteen year old mother pacifies her newborn son in the midnight hour.

A mother, in some ways still a child herself; starts swimming the best way she knows how to stay afloat, risking it all by giving all of herself to a child surviving in the life preserver of his mother’s arms.

Back in the lonely days of early child-rearing, there wasn’t a village to assist my mother and her young son and soon to be five daughters who’d be born within a year or two between themselves.

Easter with siblings and outfits

Diapers weren’t disposable, and babysitters weren’t affordable. Mother leaned on God for inner strength while she flailed in the deep waters of parenting. Without sisters or the helping arms of an overworked and young husband himself, mother sowed the remains of her teenage years into the garden of her children, cultivating them in the admonition of the Lord.

A woman who gave all didn’t read the fine print of mothering; she willingly risked the tears of her heart through her children’s scrapes, their falls, their fails, their challenges, their growing up, and yes, their leaving for lives of their own because:
siblings family photo (2)Mothers love when it hurts.

Buried in the fine print of loving others,

We’re vulnerable to
The “what if’s”,
The risks,

When sharing a piece of our heart with another.

Mother faced
The risk,
The “what if”

My child leaves me for Jesus,
While I’m still alive to face this painful good-by.

Mother attended the funeral for two of her young adult daughters,

siblings belinda mary

Mary's Headstonedavid at gravesideWho left behind children of their own in their leaving.
funeral 2siblings mary christina brittany
“Mother’s should never have to bury their children”,
My mother lamented.

Grief hovered as a dark cloud over my mother’s life for years until sunshine broke through in her daughter’s memories.

My mother gave her heart away because;

Mothers love when it hurts.

Sunday, May 9, 2021 this daughter will celebrate the first Mother’s Day without her mother.

Mother’s Day crosses another milestone of firsts that we as her remaining family, navigate life through the maiden year without our matriarch.

Love hurts in good-by.
a flowersa family alicea family
Love hurts in the empty seat.

empty chair TABLE Mom Picture Sweater

Love hurts in the conversations you long to have.

IMG_7107

Love hurts in the empty arms.
mom and grandkids USE
Love hurts at her graveside.

mom's headstone

But grief which lingers as a dark cloud will one day be clear skies when sunshine breaks in our mother’s memories.
IMG_9345Always finding comfort, peace and joy in our loving God,

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
And saves the crushed in spirit.
Psalm 34:18

Yes, love hurts.

But…

“Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.”
Alfred Lord Tennyson

YOU CAN’T TAKE IT WITH YOU  By Lori A Alicea

Judgment Day has finally come for our stuff.

The day we liberate ourselves from the village of boxes taking residence into two storage units whose contents we have no idea of anymore.

Boxes we can’t get to, walk between or even reach if we had a need.

Boxes filled with stuff we once loved I’m sure.

Where multiple reunions of memories will certainly take place on the lawn of our hearts once the purging begins.

But the battle cry of the General shakes the walls of our home,

BE GONE you unnamed faces of clutter”.

Who takes his post on the front line to wage war against the soldiers of stuff, to win back our peace and freedom from life’s accumulation behind door #1 and door #2; handing out eviction notices to over one hundred boxes of squatters, giving them thirty days to vacate the premise.
You don’t notice it happening when the boxes of your life start taking their place on the garage shelf.

But when you move into a smaller house and those boxes of stuff find a new home in storage, you realize you’ve taken on the identify of Madam Blueberry, a child’s cartoon character that accumulates all her stuff,

Who reasons with her excuses:

I’ll need this stuff again someday.”
I just can’t part with my stuff.”
Surely, my grown kids or grandchildren will want my stuff when I’m gone.”

At the end of the day our boxes are just stuff.

Stuff that costs us financially, spiritually and emotionally.

When the reality is at the end of our life,
You can’t take it with you.

A bell ringing loud and clear when the hearse came for our father on
August 7, 2016.

While appreciating the wonderful provider my father was, a high price was paid as he toiled over two jobs during my entire childhood, working arduous days, nights and weekends to give his family a better life than he had, at least in the material things.

But I remember watching him slave over Volkswagen’s needing repairs through the kitchen window into the garage as a young girl, longing he’d take a day off and spend it with me. With the driveway converted to a parking lot always filled with cars waiting their turn to be fixed, a daddy-daughter day never happened.

Once the hearse left with our father in 2016, I turned around to the house filled with stuff of the ”better life” my father left behind for us kids, yet embracing the empty reminders of the emotional price we paid for stuff, when all we ever wanted growing up was time spent with him.

“Where my money goes, my heart follows.”
Randy Alcorn

If we could realize before we waste our lives working to collect wealth and stuff:

God has not given us all this wealth simply to increase our standard of living,
But to increase our standard of giving.
Randy Alcorn

You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.
2 Corinthians 9:11 NIV

Life is best spent in the currency of time on those who call us mom, dad, son, daughter, sister, brother, friend.

Discovering together those hidden gardens of wild flowers which open up themselves and our eyes to the “little things”, a place that requires no admission but a heart of contentment.

A place to remind us that a life of loving and forgiving, serving and giving to our Lord and others, will lay up treasures for us in heaven instead of stuff here on earth.

20 Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven,
Where neither moth nor rust destroys
And where thieves do not break in and steal.
21 For where your treasure is,
There your heart will be also.
Matthew 6:20-21

Might we have eyes to see the end of our life while we are still living our life?
Might we toil less at the job and enjoy our children more before they take their maiden flight away from home.
Might we simplify and purge the stuff which burdens and live the best life God has prepared for us.
At the moment I am writing these words, my brother’s life is waiting for Jesus to receive him or give him a miracle.  Who I promise at this dire hour is re-visiting the family ledger, adding the deposits he made into the lives of those he loved, wasting not one minute on the credits of purchases he made for meaningless stuff.

Might our best life be spent in the currency of time on those who call us mom, dad, son, daughter, sister, brother, friend and not wasted of stuff,

Because when the hearse arrives one day,
And it will,
You can’t take your stuff with you.

LOT 232  By Lori A Alicea

Hard to believe six months have already passed us by.

During this short season the landscape of our life has been painfully pruned back by the gardener, fertilized and re-seeded for new and beautiful growth; but yet, that most sacred ground and scenery of our heart has remained untouched, unchanged.

Time does not discriminate and show favor to the weary, the broken, and those resisting the shears of the gardener’s pruning.

But life goes on as it should.

There’s wonder and beauty to be unwrapped and unveiled to those willing to continue their passage through the steep hills and rough terrain of change.

Remembering there are no shortcuts or detours, just one-way signs of “going thru” that difficult process of mining the heartache to discover those diamonds of new beginnings.

Lot 232 remains just as I remember.

LOT 232 SIGN

The furniture hasn’t moved nor any picture or book out of place since I cleaned it last.

coffee table

Contagious laughter of small children still echoes from the walls that captured their innocence seated around the table, each eating the spoils from the scavenger hunts of their grandmother’s cupboards.

moms table

The smells of the kitchen still retain their aromatic flavor and the recipes and memories remain that once framed the holiday dinner portraits at moms; the legacy gift I cherish most from her.

salt and pepper shakers

 Evident from the unwrinkled comforter, mother’s bed hasn’t been slept in; although the soft music she used to play continuously from the small radio on her nightstand can be slightly heard if I lean in ever so closely.

moms room

Lot 232 hasn’t changed a bit in my heart, but of all the details I wish I could change, it would be that my key to Lot 232 still opened the front door to my mother’s life.

So much has changed these last six months and yet, that most sacred ground and scenery of our heart has remained untouched, unchanged.

Daughters are little girls who never outgrow the need to share those heart gushes with her mother.

Grandchildren need those rocking chair moments with their grandmother too.

grandma in chair

The merry-go-round of living keeps spinning and changing, and how I desperately want off this ride.

But life must go on as it should;
Walking in the peace,
The calm and
Serenity of God’s love;

A journey that allows the Father to carry our troubles while carrying us when we need Him to.

Going on” mandates the “letting go” of what our heart strings desperately cling to. It’s giving to God what has been His from the beginning.

There’s no looking back in the rear view mirror when your life is moving forward.

We must allow God to pack our suitcase of memories; a loving tour guide who encourages traveling light, not weighted down from the cares of what “used to be”.

I sure love you mom.

I love mom

I keep your beautiful smile in my heart of remembrances.

face of our holidays

Your prayers for the three generations you petitioned God for were not in vain.

moms prayers

Your prayers have taught us to place our hope in God.

hope

And accept the things we cannot change.

Serenity Prayer
God, grant me the
Serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can and
Wisdom to know the difference.

I drove by Lot 232 just the other day; an address one street over from when we used to be neighbors.  Seems like yesterday we were sharing an early morning cup of coffee together on your porch.

They say you can take the neighbor out of the neighborhood, but never the neighborhood from the neighbor.

We’ll always be neighbor’s mom.

Addresses may change.
But keys to the front door of our memories will never need a locksmith.

Thank you God for Lot 232.

I have no doubt my mother didn’t need a change of address in heaven.

I’ll know exactly where to find her.
LOT 232 SIGN

NOW THEY ARE FOUR…By Lori A Alicea

A week and a childhood into adulthood of memories ago they were five;

Five chairs and five dinner plates around the table;
Five pair of muddy Converse’s piled at the front door.
Five twin bed’s half-hardheartedly made some of the time.
Five wrestling opponents; one or two champions at best.
Bicycles to fight over; possibly never five.
Five hungry appetites;

Five sharing telephone numbers.
Five believing in God;
Five believing in each other.
Five attending five weddings.

Five brothers never imagining one without the other.

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But now they are four.

A team of five brothers they were.

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Maybe not on the same baseball team together, as one loved the WWF more while the other preferred his cars.

But five brothers shared a passion for life, for living on the edge of laughter, for having your back, for locking arms on your behalf.

david and alicea brothers dancing at raquels weddings

A team of soldiers “leaving no man behind” when he’s down.  A team of five hearts loving one mother and father.

DAVID BROTHERS NATE JAKE 025

A kitchen full of boys fighting for the last helping of rice.

A stove big enough for every son on the team to learn from a living cookbook the family recipes.

To learn beside their mother’s apron the magic of family meals and memories.

To remember to pass her legacy and love for the kitchen down through the generations.

DAVID BROTHERS NATE JAKE 015

Five brothers who value family; five godly men who honor the blessings of those seated next to them on Sunday afternoons at their mother’s table following church.

To share a meal and a cup of coffee together.

To enjoy a conversation about music, the White Sox and maybe their mother’s Cubbies; well maybe.

A team of seekers hungry for a mighty move of God.

DAVID BROTHERS NATE JAKE 016Then they were five.

The team witnessed Number Five marry a woman living in Puerto Rico with him in Indiana; a love story whose pages could only be written by the hand of God.

A handsome man all dressed up would be introduced to a woman visiting her uncle in Chicago, both attending the same gathering which God had secretly orchestrated.

An old fashioned relationship of hand-written letters began and continued for over two years. Authored from the heart and penned onto paper, the words of Ruben and Carmen’s love story were intimately being written by God.USE HAND WRITTEN LETTER

Significant of this long-distance romance, Ruben crafted a miniature red mailbox for Carmen, with a letter equally as small addressed to the love of his life in Puerto Rico.

Ruben’s heart poured out to Carmen as a sonnet,

When I give my heart, I give it completely.
If I fall for you, will you catch me?

After seeking a father’s blessing for his daughter’s hand in marriage, Ruben proposed to the love of his life with Niagara Falls as the backdrop to their picture perfect moment.

A smile that beamed from an overflowing heart thru the windows of her eyes,
Carmen said yes and they were married in Puerto Rico on a beautiful day,
June 19, 1988.

An old fashioned relationship of hand-written letters
Brought them to the steps of a holy altar;

Sacred marriage vows to:
Love and to cherish
For richer, for poorer,
In sickness and in health,
Unto death.

Ruben and Carmen loved each other for a lifetime.
Ruben and Carmen were committed to their vows of promises for thirty-two glorious years.

Their vows of
In sickness and in health
Unto death

Was their living testimony, a God centered example of marriage to that difficult fork in the road called Unto.

Woven into the remaining moments and days Carmen shared with her beloved, she reminded him how forever grateful she was of the Godly man that had faithfully served her, a servant whose greatness was witnessed in the little things; grocery shopping, meal preparation, finances.

Carmen reminisced Ruben’s Hallmark store of greeting cards he sent her, being mindful of the man she loved so dearly, mindful of a husband’s details that remains hidden in a place recessed in her heart, reserved only for him.

Carmen celebrated the songs Ruben dedicated to her, music which always takes her back to their place, their life; their scrapbook of memories.

Carmen thanked her romantic husband for that hidden garden he must have been secretly tending to, that special place just for her where he picked the prettiest bouquets of flowers for his wife most deserving.

Even in Ruben’s darkest hour, he was still found loving his wife; still keeping his God ordained post to inquire of any concerns, to encourage his beloved wife in the Lord, leading her to stand on the word.

The steps of a righteous man enters into praise as his teammates sang over him, keeping a soldier’s promise, “leaving no man behind.”

Pushing through excruciating pain, Ruben’s groaning’s of praise wafted to heaven a sweet fragrance to God,

1The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want…

4Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Psalms 23:1, 4, 6 (KJV)

Ruben sent one last letter, hand-written from the pen of his heart-felt love and addressed to his siblings,
“Please tell all my brother’s I love them.”

On February 27, 2021 that morning, the brother’s shared a “last call”, a final moment on the field honoring team member No. 5, a text message at six-thirty am that morning rejoicing as Ruben finally received his eternal reward.

Moments of silence flowed into rivers of tears.

Tributes to Ruben’s life were noted in part on social media…

Pastor and Nephew Jeremias Alicea – Ruben was a godly man, a pioneer in his church, and a devout follower of Jesus Christ. He always had a heart for people and I think it was, in part, because he understood the struggles of those who were marginalized. I am so glad he is no longer suffering and that he is rejoicing in heaven with many who have gone on before.

Niece Raquel Clay – Death is a beautiful thing when suffering is on the other side! I am grateful that my uncle is no longer suffering, but is fully healed and with his mother again in heaven! I rejoice in the memories of my uncle and hold onto the truth of what’s to come. Death is only the beginning, not the end!

Over the last two weeks a team has been planning to honor one of their own.

But the singing has already begun.
When We All Get to Heaven
By Alan Jackson
When we all get to heaven
What a day of rejoicing that will be.
When we all see Jesus
We’ll sing and shout the victory.

The family rejoices for the streets of gold their brother walks.

The team rejoices for the heavenly reunions already taking place.

The celebration of five brothers 

Now becoming four 
In letting go their brother who has just seen Jesus.

No. 5 has been retired to the Brothers Hall of Fame.

Around the dinner table there still remains five chairs and five plates;

The emptiness of one chair and one plate speaks loudly to a family’s loss and void.

Five brothers never imagined one without the other.

Memories never leave or abandon the heart.

But embracing the loss of being five is most difficult.

Niece Raquel Clay said it best,
Death is only the beginning, not the end!

We rejoice for you, our brother Ruben.
We promise to take care of your beloved Carmen.

The team will never be the same without you.
We find comfort and hold near your last words on earth,
“Stand on the Word.”
And
“All I know is that He redeemed my soul.”IMG_8128

Where once they were five, Now they are four.

But we will all see Ruben again one day.
Who knows when that one day will be?

But there’s comfort for all of us to think about that one day we will see Ruben again.

It’s like that reassurance Carmen had for thirty-two years when Ruben kissed her good night before sleep and a husband’s voice could be heard in the dark,
I’ll see you in the morning.

 

OUR ANGEL TREE Angel  By Lori A Alicea

Thanksgiving is still a week away yet Christmas made its debut appearance weeks ago unveiling its new holiday line on store shelves of businesses everywhere.

Strands of Christmas lights, wreathes and decorations of all kinds usher an early season’s greeting to the small town we live near, where many in the community have given themselves permission to break rank with the holiday calendar order and take part in these “tree trimming” festivities inside their own homes.

xmas tree

For this “kid at heart” who secretly embraces a Christmas spirit year ‘round and can be caught red-handed playing holiday music in July, the kickoff of December albeit before Thanksgiving, delights the little Christmas girl in me who refuses to ever grow up.

As magical and undeniable that Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year to many, there are others facing great challenges, hardships, and pain where Christmas can’t leave soon enough; many of their stories depicted as angels on Angel Trees everywhere, presenting an opportunity to bless mere strangers disguised as a chosen angel.

Christmas decoration wooden angel on a Christmas tree. Close-up.
Christmas decoration wooden angel on a Christmas tree. Close-up.

In the hustle and bustle of shopping on strapped wallets for most, it’s easy to walk by and pretend we didn’t notice the Christmas needs of strangers hanging as angel ornaments on an Angel Tree strategically placed in store entrances to inspire a heart-felt connection of generosity. I confess to be that passerby of numerous Angel Trees over the years.

But this particular December, an Angel Tree stands in the corner of our family living room decorated with only one angel to select from. Our Angel Tree angel keeps us up at night in our thoughts and prayers. I dare not be a passerby this year.

Our angel’s Christmas list is short, one item to be precise; a list requiring a miracle from the hand of God; a Christmas miracle we can still believe in as all things are possible with Him.

Our Angel Tree angel isn’t asking for much.

Our brother just wants

To Live.

mark connie hospital

Like a bad dream we wished we could wake up from this terrible nightmare; no doubt our brother wishes the same.

Every next breath for my brother is a dear gift yet an agonizing struggle for him as well.

Our brother’s health crisis is beyond our understanding as growing up, we’ve only known and loved our “big brother” as one watching over us five sisters with eagle eyes, protecting us with strong arms and yes, even scamming us from time to time over chores and allowances as brothers do.

siblings church directory

Nothing ever changed in our relationship with our brother moving into adulthood.

siblings family photo

Whenever the family faced a challenge, albeit financial, health or an emotional kind with our parents or one of us, Our Angel Tree angel could always be seen walking through the door with answers.

mark coming home from work

Regardless that a thousand miles and months between his visits stood in the way of a mother embracing her son, a mother never took for granted an Angel Tree angel’s love whenever he came into town.

mark with mom

Our Angel Tree angel was honored in the final act of his military father, who bequeathed a son back the gift a father’s country bestowed upon him for his military service.

mark receiving flag at dads funeral

Our Angel Tree angel has been more than an angel to two little girls who grew up in the arms of their uncle; a man who loved them more as the children he never fathered, and gave them everything a daddy’s heart could pour out into their lives.

siblings mark christina brittany

This Angel Tree angel was more than a bright light in our sister’s eyes during their final year this side of heaven, as they struggled with their own Angel Tree angel request

To Live.

siblings belinda mary

A “big brother” driving a thousand miles to pick up our sister for one last homecoming with us, then taking her fishing before dropping her off on the journey back, remained a sister’s dearest memory of her Angel Tree angel.

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Our baby sister never felt more loved and safe when she was rescued and brought into the home of her Angel Tree angel where her daughters and siblings never left her side until heaven came for its newest angel that day.

siblings mary picture

Our Angel Tree angel has loved only one woman since their holy day of matrimony decades ago.

mark connie wedding

Still to this day, you never see one without the other.

mark connie by tree

When the minister declared on their wedding day that “these two have become one”, Our Angel Tree angel’s wife remains in this battle with him, fighting and helping her angel

To Live.

mark connie hospital

Our Angel Tree angel’s wife fights in hope, fights with God’s Word, fights to help him breath with all the love she has for her Angel Tree angel; to help him Live as he has requested.

Christmas decoration wooden angel on a Christmas tree. Close-up.
Christmas decoration wooden angel on a Christmas tree. Close-up.

These thousand miles between us are bridged by a sibling’s love for their Angel Tree angel only a close knit family can understand.

We pray that Jesus will be the best gift, the only gift you’ll need this Christmas morning.

We pray that one shake of a holiday snow globe brings back irreplaceable memories of Christmas mornings we shared together as children, never forgetting you’ll always be
Our Angel Tree angel,

with us now wanting to be the same for you.

Lori sibling xmas

IN THE FACE OF FEAR  By Lori A Alicea

There is a masquerade party we’ve each attended to on occasion,
Where guests come wearing a mask of the heart…

Their…

Face of hopelessness…
Face of despair…
Face of rejection…
Face of the unknown…
Face of “what if”…
Face of “not measuring up”…
Face of inadequacy…
Face of lack…
Face of sickness…
Face of death…
Face of….

The masquerade of so many faces…
Who hide behind the masks of their fears…

Instead of defying in the face of fear with God’s warning of truth,
I DARE YOU!”

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The storms of life are always brewing.
Some storms are predicted, calculated and seen from miles away.

hollis 7

There are other storms you run into by accident,

hollis 3

Whose swells overtake you when least expected.

hollis 5

But it’s the presence of life’s predictions on radar, the gusts of winds and storms we track, and possibilities of high tides that take us under emotionally in our fears of hopelessness, despair, and rejection.

We run for higher ground in our fear of the “unknown”, the “what if”.

We anchor our boats as we sink from the fear of our inadequacies, our “not measuring up” and in our lack.

In desperation we fire the flares for a rescue from fear of our sickness and imminent death.

In the eye of the storm we hide behind the masks of our fears.

We cower to the water’s  enemies instead of boldly standing up to take them out.

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We must rise up in the lying face of fear,
With eyes of truth of a wonderful God,
Who casts all fear with his love.

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Take back your ground in the face of fear
Reflecting the face of God.

Fear nothing, because…

1God is our refuge and strength, AN EVER-PRESENT HELP IN TROUBLE.

2Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth gives way, though the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,

3Though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains quake with their surging.

10 He says, “Be still, and KNOW THAT I AM GOD…
Psalm 46:1-3, 10 NIV

A TIME TO GO ON… By Lori A Alicea

1There is a time for everything
And a season for every activity under heaven.
2A time to be born and a time to die….
4A time to weep and a time to laugh.
4A time to mourn and a time to dance.
Ecclesiastes 3:1, 2, 4

Time is artistically painted on the canvases of our lives, expressed in the brushstrokes of the valleys and mountain tops we experience.

The valleys and mountains each are majestic from their view and unique perspective, both offering challenges and struggles yet delighting the eye from the artist’s layers of color and intricate detail, regardless the compass direction our faces must turn to soak in its wonder based on our foots position.

Mountains are tall and strong, fully alive calling those in the valley to come forth, to begin their ascent to the mountain’s highest peak, its summit, a holy place where God often encounters His people.

God spoke to Moses from a burning bush on Mount Horeb.

God tested Abraham’s heart on Mount Moriah and sent an angel to stay Abraham’s hand before sacrificing his son Isaac.

God wants to encounter us in the high places, sending us changed as we make our descent down the mountain, to then encounter other lost and broken hearts for the Kingdom.

Valleys are low places book-ended between vast mountains. Valleys are a place of rest with God along green pastures beside the quiet rivers running through; a safe place where the Shepherd’s rod and staff comforts even in the shadow of death. It is in the valley experience where we learn to trust a good and faithful God, a place of dependence giving Him permission to restore our soul.

(Psalm 23 NIV)

1There is a time for everything
And a season for every activity under heaven.
2A time to be born and a time to die….
Ecclesiastes 3:1, 2

On Sunday, September 20, 2020 God chose this day to be the last day for our mother’s life this side of eternity.

a goodby hands

At 9:52 pm our mother entered the gates of heaven, falling into the Lord’s embrace for the first time on the other side of eternity.

As a family we rejoice as our mother received her eternal reward, yet must now reconcile God’s truth in our hearts,

There is a time to be born, and a time to die…”
Ecclesiastes 3:2

a goodby neese jake david looking at casket

a goodby cumbee

a goodby jay and jill
debbie and andy
amy david
barb

Though undeniably a families heartbreaking loss, might our hearts be somewhat comforted and quieted as innocent children like our sweet granddaughter Ayva who understands from the simple pages of a child’s book written from her view in the valley, “Grandma is now with Jesus.”

a goodby ayva looking at grandma (2)
Ayva doesn’t fear because she knows and trusts this same Jesus to comfort her by the quiet waters along the green pastures she sits.

1There is a time for everything
And a season for every activity under heaven.
Ecclesiastes 3:1

There is a time to say good-by.

a graveside burial hearst USE
burial 1 USE
a graveside candace and girls USE
a graveside casket 1
There is a time to be comforted in good-by…

a graveside debbie and kids
There is a time to touch one last time in good-by…

a graveside burial jake casket
jordan casket
debbie casket
1
There is a time for everything
And a season for every activity under heaven.
2A time to be born and a time to die….
4A time to weep and a time to laugh.
4A time to mourn and a time to dance.
Ecclesiastes 3:1, 2, 4

And a Time to Go On…

On Sunday, September 20, 2020 at 9:52 pm our mother left us, but at 9:53 pm that same evening, the second hand of time continued to make its way around the clock, signaling that Time Must Go On.

Probably the most difficult about saying good-by is embracing the
valley back to the mountain experience” of
going on.

Though paralyzed in grief, traffic doesn’t pull over for the grieving.

Flags aren’t lowered to honor the heartbroken.

The heartbeat of time never flat lines.

The rhythm of life continues to breathe in and breathe out.

There is a time for everything,

There is a time to go on.

September 20, 2020 is a mile marker we find ourselves looking back in the rear view mirror from. Trying to go on, yet the rear view mirror of our mother’s life calls us to reflect back, to remember, to want another moment with her, to maybe deny that she ever left.

The most painful realization of this September 20th mile marker for me is the silent telephone and not hearing my mother’s voice on the other line anymore when I call. Our time together was usually at night or especially during my 45 minute ride home after Life Group on Tuesday nights from church. Mother kept me company along the dark roads until I was safe behind closed doors again.  In the silence of my car ride alone, I’ve tried to listen to my mother’s gospel music she used to have playing in the house.  But credited to my heart’s sadness, could barely get thru a single song.

The countless times I’ve searched my contact list to see mother’s number still saved on my phone; I don’t have the heart to delete a disconnected number, especially my mother’s. On occasion I have dialed for another conversation with my mother, hoping for a miracle she’d find the time to take my call in heaven.

I am already feeling the weight of the upcoming holidays on the vacancy of my heart.  Her empty seat at the table will require God’s presence to overcome the loss of hers.

Navigating the “firsts” of the next twelve months without my mother can be unbearable unless I find a place to rest among the green pastures of the valley, to surrender to the still waters where my Jesus can restore my soul.

In time, we must laugh again.
We must dance again.
Yes, there will be tears.
Yes there will be mourning.
There is a time for everything,
And yes,

There is a Time to Go On.

The mountains, tall and majestic and fully alive are calling those in the valley to look up and come forth, to begin their ascent to the mountain’s highest peak, its summit, a holy place where God wants to encounter His people.

There is a time for everything,
And as for me, a time to write again.

a family gaga and ayva and aubrey

There is a time to remember what God has done, what God has given, what God has blessed.  A time to remember a mother who gave us life;
A praying mother who introduced her six children to Jesus.

a family our names

There is a time for everything…

A time to remember.

Just the other day while driving with my three year old granddaughter Aubrey in her car seat, she looked from her window and screamed with excitement,

Oh look Gaga, there’s grandma’s house.”

How did a three year old remember this view from just a few weeks ago?

a graveside burial cemeteryWe will never forget you mother.

a gravesideburial headstone

Yes, we will look from time to time the rear-view mirror to remember all that you were to us.

Your family will never forget…

No matter that Time, With or Without Our Permission, Must Go On. Continue reading A TIME TO GO ON… By Lori A Alicea