Category Archives: Grief

When You’re Married Almost SEVENTY YEARS… (“Great is Thy Faithfulness”)

Friends! Our family has been on an emotional roller coaster for several weeks over my Father-in-Love, Bill Hoagland.  He was taken into the arms of our Sweet Lord on Sunday, September 22nd. He would’ve been 92 this month.

A sympathy card we received in yesterday’s mail says, “A life is a continuous thread. It weaves itself through love and memory, and remains a part of everyone it has touched.”  My friend Jayne Combs, who sent the card said,

What a dear, dear thought.

Bill and Adeline are blessed with four children, two daughters-in-law, 12 grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren for starters!  The number of friends who flowed thru’ the visitation and funeral were astonishing and such a beautiful blessing to all of us.

When planning Bill’s funeral (I called him “Possum” while our kids called him “Huggy”), all of John’s siblings, plus Marte and I, gathered at the Hoagland’s house Sunday afternoon and came up with thoughts for the obituary, favorite hymns for the funeral, etc. Many of our memories were like warm blankets, comforting us, making us laugh one minute and cry the next.

One of my favorite memories of Possum was watching him play the piano.  He could play be ear which always fascinated me.  When I met him for the very first time and shared I, too, play the piano (but NOT by ear!!!), I believe he decided I was okay to enter the family.  That was one of our fun things we could do together.

Possum frequently sported a bow tie.  At his funeral, there were twelve grandsons who became two teams of pallbearers, each wearing a bow tie.  That was one of many scenes causing us all to tear up.

The final honor guard presentation was a sight to behold:   Two young men from the Unites States Navy entered the sanctuary accompanied by taps, saluting the casket, reverently folding the flag, and presenting it to Adeline.  Not a dry eye existed, and I know Bill would’ve loved this.

Beyond all of Bill’s accomplishments, far and away were the heights he and Addie would go to for their marriage.  Addie often says, “He was always so kind to me.”

Those of you who knew Bill, know he and Addie were inseparable.  What one couldn’t do, the other could, always helping one another.  They sailed all over the city eating at many restaurants along the way. They would’ve been married SIXTY-NINE YEARS this November.

Below are a couple of older photos of the two lovebirds.  I think they look like movie stars!

One of the many lovely hymns sung at Bill’s funeral was “Great is Thy Faithfulness” by Thomas Obediah Chisholm. Thomas was born in a log cabin in Franklin, Kentucky. Rob Morgan, in his book Then Sings My Soul:  150 of the World’s Greatest Hymn Stories, tells us Thomas began teaching school at the early age of 16.

He came to Christ when he was 27 and because of numerous illnesses, went from job to job. Upon discovering his many new blessings each day, He wrote “Great is Thy Faithfulness,” taking the phrase from Lamentations 3:22-23,

The lyrics speak not only to our own faith in God, but I believe they speak to Bill’s devotion to Adeline and to his family:

Thomas wrote over 1,200 poems and hymns. His friend, William Runyan, is who composed the music to this song and many others.  He was so moved in particular by this one, Rob tells us “he prayed earnestly for special guidance in composing the music.”

The hymn didn’t take off at first.  Finally, Dr. Will Houghton of the Moody Bible Institute of Chicago made “Great is Thy Faithfulness” an unofficial theme song for the school.  But who really made it popular was the one and only George Beverly Shea and the choirs at the Billy Graham Crusades. (These are only a few of the many fun facts you can learn from Then Sings My Soul.)

This summer, soon after our two new grandsons, Ford and Henry, were born, they got to meet Huggy. This tickled us pink to see so many generations.  There’s that thread Jayne taught us about.

When I stop and think John and I’ve been married thirty-five years, right about half of what Bill and Adeline were, I can’t imagine life without my “better two-thirds”.  Our family would covet your prayers for Adeline as this journey ahead will be challenging.

My sis-in-love, Marte, told me soon after both her parents died and mine were both gone as well, “Oh, but we’re only shortly separated.”  Amen and Amen.

Below are the “Fabulous Four Sibs” :  L-R:  Van, Billy, John and Margee, and a more recent photo of Bill and Adeline.

 

May it be said of us as we lean toward Heaven, “Great is Thy Faithfulness.” And as Bob Hope used to sing, “Thanks for the Memories.” We miss you, Huggy!

‘Til next time!

 

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When Your Beloved Pet is Diagnosed with Cancer…

Friends! It’s been several sad weeks here in the Hoagland household. Our beloved Gracie, our wire-haired fox terrier who was only 7 1/2 years old, got sick on Christmas Day and got worse and worse, week after week, until we discovered she had liver cancer and lymphoma. Only five days after that hard-to-believe diagnosis, we knew “it was time.” Beyond awful.

I know many of you have been thru’ this. One of our dear couple friends dropped off a new-to-us children’s book you need to know about: It’s called Dog Heaven by Cynthia Rylant.

The book is super sweet and we will enjoy sharing it with our grandchildren later while it helped comfort us immediately.  Additionally wonderful, our six children commissioned a super talented local artist to create a watercolor of our Gracie. What a keepsake.

Special thanks go to Taylor Grimm! Find her on Instagram at: Taylor_Leigh_Grimm

Since we’ve been empty nesters, Gracie has been our little shadow, going everywhere with us, especially my better half. We logged miles and miles a day walking with her, she chased a thousand and one squirrels, and was quite the mole hunter and conqueror.

Claire “calms” Gracie before bedtime…

Gracie perches over Poppy’s shoulder while he reads to Claire Bear.

Gracie’s favorite hangout, by the fire…

The Great Squirrel Hunter…

Thankfully, I remembered an invaluable resource we read years ago in book club: Heaven by Randy Alcorn. It’s a tome, and is seminary-worthy. Even tho’ we read it over the summer to discuss once we resumed in the fall, it was a little more than we bargained for.

We howled when the children’s version came out about the time of our meeting. However, the adult version is truly a resource readers can consult over and over for just about any topic you’d be interested in. (Try 12 sections, 46 chapters!)

Yes, there’s a chapter called, Will Animals, Including Our Pet’s, Live Again? You can bet I went to grab the book and reread this chapter.

Let’s read the first paragraph (Ch 40):

“Christ proclaims from his throne on the New Earth: ‘Behold I am making all things new’ (Revelation 21:5 ESV). It’s not just people who will be renewed but also the earth and ‘all things’ in it. Do ‘all things’ include animals? Yes. Horses, cats, dogs, deer, dolphins, and squirrels—as well as the inanimate creation—will be beneficiaries of Christ’s death and resurrection.”

Two well-known authors are also quoted in this chapter. First, let’s hear from Joni Erickson Tada from her book on Heaven:

And you all will LOVE to read this poem from none other than John Piper:

Randy Alcorn’s chapter on pets also includes answers to:

“How closely are animals tied to our resurrection?”

“Will extinct animals live on the new earth?”

“Will our pets be restored on the new earth?”

“Is it wrong to grieve a pet’s death?”

“What future is God planning for animals?”

“Might some animals talk?”

You can tell these are deep questions, Likewise goes the rest of the book. You’ll get to see and read Scripture after Scripture on animals (in this particular chapter) and see the wonder and the love the Lord gives us through our pets, ultimately created for God’s glory.

Already John and I’ve been asked the big question, “So, will you get another dog?”  To which, for today, I’ll answer “no.” We wish (!!!) to hold off until our future grandchildren arrive (two grandsons super soon, Lord willing!) and we see how much time we’d have to raise a puppy!?!

Meanwhile to those of you who’ve survived losing a pet, we’re with you. Gracie’s our third terrier and it gets much more difficult each time.

So, as Bob Hope would sing, Gracie, “Thanks for the memories…”

‘Til next time!

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When You Dread the Holidays… Where’s Our Hope?

Friends!  I pray today finds you well, at rest, at peace, all things trimmed, wrapped, and prepared for Christmas.  That little statement makes me laugh and cry simultaneously.  It looks like a bomb went off in this household.  Sigh…

It recently dawned on me that many folks who’ve lost a loved one may not be looking forward to Christmas or New Year’s or any upcoming holiday for that matter. Where do we find our hope in such circumstances?

I’m delighted to tell you about a new non-profit offering help in a multitude of ways, plus an additional treasure trove of hope from our buddy, Max Lucado.

One of my long-time friends endured the loss of her husband to suicide some seven years ago.  Not one of us would’ve predicted this, and only those who’ve found loved ones that have taken their own lives could possibly relate.

My friend is one you may also know:  Karen Buchanan Meyer.  She told me this week that within days of Don’s death, she felt more than a nudge from the Holy Spirit to figure out ways to help others going thru’ such horrific experiences.

Other friends met with her and over these past few years, Karen and her friend, Lisa Schardein, have formed a non-profit called First Hour Grief Response. (www.firsthourgrief.org)

 

Between Karen’s experiences and Lisa’s (Lisa’s 19 year old son, Ben, was killed by a drunk driver in June of 2011.), and with the help of others, they felt led to start First Hour Grief Response (FHGR) whose mission is to: “Provide free guidance and compassionate support for people who have suffered the sudden loss of a loved one.”

We learn “grief left unaddressed can lead to anger, aggression, deep depression, substance abuse, divorce, and even suicide.” FHGR, Inc. makes it their goal to “help grievers take the path toward hope and healing.”

They offer help over the loss of a child, spouse, parent, friend, or loss by suicide.  Multiple resources for counseling, books, legal assistance, workshops, funeral homes and planning, clergy and churches, etc. are available on their website.  Their office in Louisville is at 4055 Shelbyville Road, Suite B, 40207. You can reach them at (502) 791-9938.

This non-profit is a beautiful visual of 2 Corinthians 1:4, “He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.”

The website, www.firsthourgrief.org also offers a weekly blog covering all kinds of topics. Two of my favorite sections in their flyer is also on their website for when you’re talking to a friend who’s just lost their loved one:

Karen said many organizations are jumping on board, spreading the word about FHGR, Inc., including a grief support group starting at Northeast Christian Church in the NECC Student Lobby building on January 22nd next year.

Our meeting was timely with it being year-end, should you be looking for other entities to donate to prior to December 31st.  (Their approval to become a non-profit just happened in November.) Please consider helping this well thought out and prayed for organization.  My guess is you can think of several friends or loved ones who could benefit from FHGR, Inc.

And as always, may I recommend a book you don’t want to miss which will bless you with an abundance of hope?  Unshakable Hope:  Building our Lives on the Promises of God by Max Lucado.

Chapter 14 gifts us with Hebrews 6:19, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.”

Max teaches, “Our anchor, in other words, is set in the very throne room of God. We might imagine the anchor attached to the throne itself. It will never break free. The rope will never snap. The anchor is set, and the rope is strong. Why?

Because it is beyond the reach of the devil and under the care of Christ. Since no one can take your Christ, no one can take your hope.” Yes!

We also learn God wants us to “abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13 NKJV) Max says this promised hope is “an unbreakable spiritual lifeline.”  Wow, don’t miss that phrase!

He adds, “Since His promises are unbreakable, your hope will be unshakable.”

Let’s close with Russell Kelso Carter’s rich words from a hymn he wrote after enduring a critical heart condition which initially looked as if he was on the brink of death.  During those frightening days, he recommitted his life to Christ and began leaning on the promises he found in the Bible, living with a healthy heart for another 49 years!

(Second verse and refrain)

“Standing on the promises that cannot fail,

When the howling storms of doubt and fear assail,

By the living Word of God I shall prevail,

Standing on the promises of God.

 

Standing, standing,

Standing on the promises of God my Savior;

Standing, standing,

I’m standing on the promises of God.”

 

Friend, whatever you’re going thru’, our Lord is by your side. Friends and helpers like those with First Hour Grief Response are standing by.  Don’t go it alone.  Cling to the promises of God and Savor this Season of Christ’s birth.

Our family wishes you and your family a very Merry Christmas with hope for a blessed New Year.

‘Til next time!

 

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Books to Help the Grieving Process in the Death of a Loved One (with help from Nancy Guthrie, Dee Brestin and Zig Ziglar) Part 2 of 2

Friends!  Last week we learned about a children’s book about the death of a child and ways to handle such.  This week we’ll get to look at a handful of books by different authors which are equally helpful.  If you’re like me, usually at a loss for words, grasping for something, anything, I believe these authors offer a number of nuggets.

First up is author Nancy Guthrie.  She and her husband, David, lost two of their three children to Zellweger Syndrome where babies only live less than six months with no known cure. Hope was their first child, followed by Gabriel.

Unbelievably, Nancy wrote Holding on to Hope:  A Pathway Through Suffering to the Heart of God not long after both babies went to Heaven.

Their story was first published in Time magazine on 7/16/01 in an article called, When God Hides His Face:  Can Faith Survive When Hope Has Died? The Guthries think so.

I must share three stats that will make your hair stand on end:  “The odds of carrying a recessive gene for… Zellweger Syndrome are 1 in 160. The odds of two carriers meeting and having a child who suffers from the syndrome are about 1 in 100,000.

David and Nancy, already the parents of a healthy son, Matt, drew that 1 in 100,000 chance when they had Hope, who struggled with life for 199 days. After Hope was found to have the ailment, David got a vasectomy. The odds of a woman becoming pregnant after her partner has had the procedure are roughly 1 in 2,000.”

Nancy did indeed become pregnant with Gabriel, who also had the syndrome and lived about six months. How does one cope?

I’m beyond thrilled to report Nancy and David’s faith has remained intact, and their friends from church have been “an unfailing pillar of strength.” Nancy said while pregnant with Gabriel, “If God would ask me to suffer this significantly, I think He has something significant He wants to do with it through me, if only just in my heart.”

I know what you’re thinking.  I thought it too. (Reminds me of Job.)

In Holding on to Hope, Nancy walks us thru’ parts of the Book of Job, holding our hands, digging for pearls we can cling to. She tackles these subjects with vulnerability that’ll make you weep: (At the end of the book, there’s also a section of Scriptures on each of these topics.)

Nancy and David, along with her numerous books she’s written since their children’s deaths, are a visual of 2 Corinthians 1:3-4.

In the chapter on Intimacy, Nancy says, “It is one thing to believe that God is faithful and will supply all your needs—even in the darkest of times. It is another thing to experience it. In the darkest of days, we’ve  experienced a supernatural strength and peace that could only come from God. Perhaps you have too.”

Nancy says her husband, David, “…always feared a tragedy would occur in his life. But …now that the tragedy has come, the fear is gone. Now that he has experienced his greatest fear, and experienced God’s supreme faithfulness to us through this difficulty, he no longer fears tragedy in our lives. We know God more fully because we’ve experienced Him more fully through our sorrow.”  Wow.

Anne Graham Lotz wrote the Foreword of Nancy’s book. She says, “Holding on to Hope is like a beacon of Light, drawing the reader to God and God alone. My prayer is that God will use this book to rescue you from the depths of being buried alive in the debris and rubble of your own life experience, …planting your foot on the solid ground of His Word, setting your spirit free to soar in the rarefied atmosphere of genuine worship.”  Wow again!

Don’t miss this little powerful book, plus here are four others of Nancy’s I especially like:

Hearing Jesus Speak into Your Sorrow

The One Year Book of Hope

What Grieving People Wish You Knew About What Really Helps (and What Really Hurts)

This one is by David and Nancy:

When Your Family’s Lost a Loved One:  Finding Hope Together

Nancy’s also written outstanding Bible studies. (I have her newest on order:  Even Better Than Eden:  Nine Ways the Bible’s Story Changes Everything About Your Story)

To see what else Nancy’s written and to learn more about her go to her website:  www.nancyguthrie.com

And if that’s not enough resources, oh yes, there’s more… (Variety is truly the spice of life.)  Two more beautiful and helpful books on dealing with grief are:

The God of All Comfort:  Finding Your Way into His Arms by Dee Brestin. Dee shares about experiencing the loss of her husband and how worship was (and is) a healing salve to her soul.

The Confessions of a Grieving Christian by Zig Ziglar.  This was a fairly recent discovery for me.  I didn’t know Zig lost an adult child.  It’s comforting to hear his honesty and see the God of hope at work.

Next week we’ll pick back up with another new children’s book which is happy and bright (after reviewing such serious material!), followed by helpful resources for reading to your child or grandchild, as well as for ourselves!

SO MANY BOOKS, SO LITTLE TIME.

Sigh.

‘Til next time!

 

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