Finishing The Race

Pursuing God One Shin Splint at a Time

Six Years: Last Words

I’ve found many times it’s the days leading up to a milestone day of grief (birthday, anniversaries, holidays, etc) that tend to make me an emotional roller coaster. But once the day actually arrives, I guess because of prayers and the grief work done the week preceding, the day turns out not as awful as anticipated. Sometimes.

 
It’s the not knowing that makes it hard. I won’t know until I wake up on that day whether I will need emotional support, self-care or just go through the motions.
Six years ago last night inspiration struck me as I was heading to bed. I felt an overwhelming urge to write my husband a note that he would find with his keys in the morning. I scribbled on the back of the first thing I could find, a bright orange piece of junk mail, “Thank you for working hard for Caroline and I. We love you.”
I had no idea it would be my last words to him before he entered heaven eight hours later after his car hit a freak, icy patch on an overpass just a mile from our home.
Some dear friends went back to his vehicle a few days after the accident and retrieved that note for me. I cannot describe how much it meant to me that I was able to give him loving words as a goodbye. It gave me a bit of peace in the nightmare that I still cherish to this day.

 
Words we leave for people are powerful and my first-hand knowledge is the fuel behind this blog.

 
Since the funeral in January of 2009 I had only gone back to the cemetery for other funerals. In December of the same year we were there for my dear friend’s four year old daughter’s funeral after a short battle with cancer. I did not have a desire to go back.

 

I knew I should visit, place flowers, but honestly in my head I told myself they weren’t really there, and in my heart I was scared of the grief I might experience there with my precious kids in tow.
Taking them to visit was the responsible thing to do. I couldn’t avoid the topic of what cemeteries were forever, although I tried. I did not want my avoidance of the place to become a topic for their therapy sessions as adults so I knew I had to bite the bullet.

 

I had dreaded the moment for five and a half years. Crazy I know, but grief will do that to you.

 

A few months ago, I knew the day had come, I felt the tension building and I had prayed hard about how it would go. We were putting on our shoes to get in the car when I received sweet assurance from God as a dear friend texted me out of the blue that God had placed me on her heart at that moment.

 

Praise God for His love.

 

And when we arrived? The nervous knot in my stomach drifted away as we walked over to his marker which represents his life to those who visit.
It was so very quiet, not another soul to be seen. We reached the place of so much pain for me, but the words left for us on his stone brought so much life.

“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”  Psalm 90:12

“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12

Thomas’s parents went to great lengths to capture him in words. They did an amazing job.
As our son Thomas innocently ran with abandon around the open spaces Caroline grabbed my hand and said, “It’s so peaceful.”

 
That’s when I felt the healing tears come.

 
The day I dreaded for years turned out to be a gift.

 
“Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.” Phil 4:6 MSG

This is the drawing Thomas left on Caroline’s bathtub wall a week before the accident. It’s not a coincidence that it’s the formula for life. Here’s a link to when I first wrote about it.

This is the drawing Thomas left on Caroline’s bathtub wall a week before the accident. It’s not a coincidence that it’s the scientific formula for life. Here’s a link to when I first wrote about it and larger images.

Thank you God for reminding me to not worry about the future; most of the time our worries never come to fruition. And we can never imagine the provision you’ll have waiting for us as you meet us in the day.

I think about the importance of our words and their effect on people constantly. I fret and pray before every post I write. Even before pushing “send” on a text or email or posting something on Facebook or Twitter, I think if I died suddenly what will those last words be that my family and friends will read? (Yes, I’m a bit morbid at times; it’s just how I’m wired.)
Will it be me complaining about something frivolous? Inspiring? Mean-spirited? Encouraging?

What is the last thing you’ve written? Do you believe there’s power in words?

19 Comments

  1. This is beautiful Bonnie! Your words, the pictures of your precious kids with their dad’s monument, your faith and love, and the testimony of God’s love, presence, provision, promises and faithfulness. And the lesson about the power of our words. Thank you!

  2. Bonnie, I love this. I think it will be a lovely memory that your sweet children will reflect on many times as they grow into adults.

    • I love you, Mrs Linda! I pray you are right. Tough conversations to have but the kids end up encouraging me during the process. Childlike faith is something to strive for!

  3. I doubt a January 5th will go by that I don’t think of your sweet family. Thank you for sharing your words. Hugs to you today.

  4. Shirley Alvarado

    January 5, 2015 at 11:23 am

    Bonnie, I have you in my thoughts and prayers today. This was beautiful, but even more beautiful is how God works in you and your family for His glory. I love you!

    • Thank you so much Ms Shirley! God is the ultimate redeemer; I just pray I get out of the way so He can work : ) Thanks for all the encouragement over the years!

  5. I woke with this on my heart today. It was an exact school inservice day as it was the day Thomas left. I loved Thomas too but to honest, you are my hero. I am humbled in how you have handled yourself and your children. They are so loved, Thomas would be proud. Thank you for sharing your pain and growth. It’s times like this that you inspire me. Thank you.
    Psalms 46:10…….

    • Leslie, thank you so much. It means so much to be to read your words. Yes, a monday, and an in-service day, I was more nervous than usual about this anniversary but God has provided so much love and peace from everyone, it really made it a day of remembering the good.

  6. I always remember January 5 as an important day. In the dark and painful times God uses you and your testimony for His Kingdom and His glory. I cannot teach without being reminded of Thomas periodically. I laugh about the tree outside the classroom window that I planted in his view just because he told me not to mess up his view of the pond. The funny comments between us then still make me laugh today. Every day that I look out that same window I smile. Your strength continues to inspire me and I love to see how God has used you and your story. My love goes out to your entire family.

    • Lael, I LOVE this story! Ha! He definitely had lots of funny comments for any situation it seemed. I need to bring the kiddos by to see Culp’s Corner this spring. Caroline was so young last time she visited it. Thanks for all your work you’ve accomplished with it!

  7. My precious friend…I’m at a loss for words once again. I love to see how The Lord continues to use you to bring “beauty from ashes.” Love you so very much!

  8. How precious these words are to me and thanks to God that He lead me to read them today. We have two family members, my SIL, Karen and my niece, Alana who are battling stage four cancer (pancreatic and ovarian respectively). I send them both words of support, encourage and love. Bless you for sharing, thank you for your inspiration and my best to your beautiful family. Love in Christ!

    • Oh Gwen, my goodness. I am saying a prayer for Karen and Alana as well as the whole family. I’ve witnessed God move in such miraculous ways this year–and His plan is so much greater than we can ever know. I pray you all can take comfort knowing the creator of the universe hears our prayers and will provide exactly what you all need. He promises it.

  9. What a beautiful post with so much love and beautiful pictures captured of the children. I can’t believe how big they are! I’ve followed you since the accident on “Sweet Caroline”

    I lost my dad at 13 and yes words are very powerful and also if my hubby or kids have a taste for something (food) I will make it or go buy it because you just never know… (I know morbid, but I’m wired that way too after losing my dad at 13, my grandma, my niece, two brothers and in 2004 my mother)

    Best to you and your family and cheers to 2015! May it be filled with much peace, joy and happiness!

    • Oh Glenda, my heart goes out to you. So much grief in one lifetime…praise God for the hope and faith we have in reuniting in eternity! Some days we just have to dig deep and call on friends or family to help us continue the race all the way to the finish line. Let’s promise each that we will both make it there! Keep fighting the good fight–and I totally relate to making dinner requests…I’m right there with you : )

  10. Wow. I’m so glad God brought me to this today. Mr. Culp was a teacher of mine. My favorite teacher! He changed a lot of our lives and I still think of him often. Thank you so much for sharing this. God bless you and those gorgeous kids.

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