Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Give and Take of Love

Christina and Aunt Loralee

We are thinking a lot about Christina these days.  I love learning of Christina’s quality relationships with others.  She loved very well and she was very loved.

My sister, Loralee, just celebrated a birthday.  At her birthday dinner this past week, she read a message that Christina sent to her last year. 

Christina wrote, “Life is SO full of surprises, love it!  Maybe you should come for another long visit?  I love having you around!  And I’m not just saying that:)  This is the secret truth, you ready?  You, Aunt Loralee are one of my favorite people in my life.  I don’t even know all the reasons why except you feel safe to me.  I love how you care for the depths of people’s hearts, especially mine when I get to be around you!  I love your questions, I love your nurturing heart in all you do leading to such beautiful servanthood and compassion.  I love your creativity and humor!  I love how you love your kids.  I LOVE how you seek our Lord in such evident ways in your life.  You radiate Jesus so beautifully, Loralee.  I have never shared all that with you, but I saw your text and thought, this would be a perfect time:)  I love you, and hope we do get to see you soon!”

Little did any of us know, Loralee would have an extended stay with us as she cared for us all during Christina’s 11 weeks of Hospice.  Loralee took care of Isaiah much of the time.  She organized and served the food that was graciously provided by our church family for those 3 months.  Loralee saw needs and met them.  She cleaned the Nevill home and the Ahmann home.  She did ALL of our laundry.  She welcomed a few hundred visitors to the Nevill home—fed them, asked them how they were doing with this goodbye to Christina, and loved everyone well.  And perhaps the most lasting gift—she used her gift of photography to chronicle those last 11 weeks.

Christina knew her Aunt Loralee and valued her and wasn’t hesitant to share those feelings.  And she was a bit prophetic about wanting some extended time with Loralee.  Christina got what she wanted.

Also this week, Christina’s 13 year old cousin wrote a poem about Christina.  It was another beautiful declaration of love—this time to Christina.

“If I Could”

If I could, I would walk over every mountainside, just to hear from you again.

If I could, I would visit you at heaven’s gates.

But if the light had not taken you, I could not.

If God permitted a walk along your never-ending dock,
even the birds know I would.

With smiles full of grace we’d meet at heaven’s gates,
just to show you, oh cousin, I would.

But because heaven already knows your name,
I’ll have to wait a few more days.

Until I see you again, just remember, If I could, I would.

--Chloe Van Dyke

P.S.  This poem is dedicated to my cousin Christina, who died after her fourth brain tumor and she left behind her baby boy.  We love you, Christina!  Have fun on your dock!

Chloe and Christina

I am so thankful for all of this love flowing between these people I love so much.  Remembering Christina brings such joy to my heart as I reflect on the quality of relationship she shared with those around her.

 Thank you, Christina,
for investing in others and for 
loving well as you shared your life.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

How to Celebrate a Birthday

Christina's 4th Birthday
 Christina always loved celebrating birthdays.  Today would have been her 32nd birthday and so we are celebrating in honor of her.
None of her birthdays were as special as the six birthdays she celebrated after her brain cancer diagnosis.  She was 25 at the time and her oncologist told her that an average life expectancy for someone with her type of tumor was 4 to 7 years. 

Christina's Miracle B-day
Christina did a little quick math and declared that if she made it to 30 she would consider it her miracle birthday.  If any of her friends complained about “feeling old” as their own 30th birthday approached, she would gently remind them that she was looking forward to the miracle of turning 30.

Thinking of a March 4th without Christina here to celebrate has not been easy.  Do we have a party at home?  How about a little gathering to worship?  How about some flowers at her grave?  Or maybe nothing at all?


How about doing something she really loved to do—with Doug and Isaiah?

So here we are in Hawaii—a place she loved.  There are four of us—my Doug and I along with Doug and Isaiah. Kauai is where Doug and Christina had their honeymoon so we are revisiting some of Doug’s treasured memories.  And now he’s making some new ones with Isaiah. I think Christina would be pleased with this choice for her birthday.

Christina with brother Jesse in 2008
Christina would be very happy to know that she gave birth to the perfect little beach lover.  Give Isaiah sand, bucket, shovel, waves, and lots of room to roam and he is happy for as long as we will let him play.  We wonder if Jesus has informed Christina that in honor of her, we are smiling and laughing at the antics of her little guy.  We are delighted as the roosters of Kauai have taught Isaiah what a real “Cock-a-Doodle-Doo” sounds like.  He keeps us amused as he also mimics every other bird sound that he hears--and there are some interesting ones in Kauai.

The swimming pool is another great delight.  His little swimming lessons have come in handy.  The only distraction he allows from swimming is jumping out of the pool to see if the sea turtles are still swimming in the ocean just below.

Last night we went to a luau on the beach.  Doug had not been to one and we knew Isaiah would be delighted with the colorful dancing.  It is something Christina would have loved for us to enjoy as a birthday celebration.  I mean, really, fire dancing seems an appropriate way to celebrate Christina.  We all agreed she would have been one of the audience participants learning to hula on stage.  The girl was hard to embarrass.  

So here we are. March 4th is upon us.  She was very worried that those who loved her would know only suffering after she was gone.  I think to be able to laugh and love and look forward is a great way to honor her joyful heart and her passion for life.

We love you, Christina.
We miss you.
 Thank you for teaching us how to celebrate.