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

BE THOU ENCOURAGED…In Loss By Lori A. Alicea

We are not alone in our tears.
In the lonely midnight hour it seems we suffer in silence.
But be assured and find great comfort as we are not alone in our tears.

Jesus weeps with us. He himself wept, being moved with compassion as Martha and Mary grieved the loss of their brother.  Jesus shared their grief in tears.

Jesus draws near to the broken hearted.
In your tears, Jesus will draw near to you.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
Psalm 34:18 NIV

When Jesus saw her (Mary) weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. Where have you laid him?  He asked.  “Come and see Lord,” they replied. 

Jesus wept. John 11 32-35 NIV

I never understood earth shattering loss until my older sister Belinda left this earth for heaven. So many years ago, yet seems like yesterday.  She left us at the young age of 44 after being sick her whole life, yet because of her strong will to live and belief in God for a miracle, we had her years beyond what we imagined.  She was the first of our six siblings to go.
xmas and other036A generous friend my sister was while growing up, spending her allowance on me for no other reason than she loved me. We shared a sweet friendship that followed into our adult lives.

I loved my sister’s unexpected long distance calls and hated when our short conversations were over. Belinda was always in a hurry yet I appreciated her small offerings of time.  What I wouldn’t give for a mini talk with my sister, enjoying her laugher on the other end of the telephone.

Goodbyes are terribly painful. Goodbyes open the floodgates of our tears.  You can’t remind the clock.  Wishing is a waste of time.  Life moves forward from the day death closes a door.  It’s not fair.  The answer to our “whys” will never satisfy.  Loss is a bitter pill to swallow.

Though there is rest in our suffering and loss.
There is comfort in Jesus noticing our weeping.
In our grief He is moved with compassion and weeps with us.

There is sweet hope for our tomorrow as..

Weeping may endure for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.
Psalm 30:5 NIV

Joy is not forgetting your loss.
Joy is not pretending your loss ever happened.

“Joy comes in the morning” because if allowed, Jesus is the salve that heals all wounds. Jesus binds the broken and fills the void your loved one left behind with a new song in your heart.

Those who sow in tears will reap in joyful singing.
Psalm 126:5 NIV

All those tears in the night have been accounted for.
Your tears are collected in His bottle, and…
Joy comes in the morning.

Put my tears in your bottle. Are they not recorded in your book?
Psalm 56:8 NIV

 So many years ago, yet seems like yesterday. The deep pain of losing a sister I never expected to endure.  In a former column of mine The Milestones of First Anniversary’s

I wrote:

At her graveside service as Heaven comforted us with a sunny day and serenading birds, its own recipe of chicken soup for the sick at heart.  I couldn’t have comprehended that first year without her, as we fought to get through our first week.
graveyard
Those first few weeks after our tearful good-by when the numbing of the shock had worn off, waves of sorrow crashed over me through unexpected reminders of my sister in resemblances of her children, in each of us remaining siblings and even complete strangers. I barely held it together hearing the mention of her name.
IMG_5956Reading my sister’s obituary with her picture posted seemed so surreal. I struggled to be a pillar of strength for her children embracing the difficult realization their mother was gone.

In the passing of years, you do find it to be true that “time does heal all wounds.”
You miss your loved one in ways mere words can’t convey.
But time in God is good.

He is patient.
God doesn’t rip off the Band-Aid protecting your pain.
He handles you gently and softly, and never in a hurry.

You never cry alone.
Jesus weeps His own tears with you.
In the surrendering of your broken heart there is joy in the morning.

God even breathes his joy in the midst of our good-byes.
I wrote about it in my former column just mentioned.

Though sad was our sister’s “home going party”, before us, a little butterfly circled, showing off as if to tell us a secret.  Flittering free as a child, its interpretative dance reminding us my sister was free from the body that held her hostage.  Cry no more she’s free.

 Since then, I’ve attended a few dance recitals held outside my kitchen window.  A gift from Heaven who enjoys her now, I draw joy again from the well of my soul, prepared to live through the “seconds”.  There’s even peace to write my own lyrics to the song of this butterfly’s dance.

It’s just a little butterfly,
Outside that I can see.
Performing solo with new wings,
A special dance for me.

No music plays that I can hear,
A song there has to be.
A ballerina on her stage,
The audience, just me.

This butterfly is free to fly,
Wherever it may go.
But chose outside my window pane,
That I would somehow know.

Each dance this butterfly performs,
Within my simple view.
To celebrate its freedom wings,
Each time I think of you.        

I still miss my sister after all these years.  Since my sisters death, our youngest sister went home to be with Jesus, leaving another empty chair at the dinner table.  So much to conceive, but Jesus is enough to get us to the other side of pain.  Good-by celebrates the handprints our loved one leaves behind.
No thief can ever rob you of their memory.
david at gravesideIt’s ok to weep.
Jesus did.

Remember that heaven is our eternal home; we are only passing through in this life.
We’re just dropping in to say hello this side of heaven.
One day we’ll all meet Jesus and our loved ones again and..

As the song is gloriously written…

What a day of rejoicing that will be.

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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.