A little over two weeks ago, a beloved friend and family member by choice passed after a long battle with cancer.  She was a bestie and confidant to my Mom and the Bridge Girls, the most amazing friend group EVER, and like an Aunt to my sister and I.  She was beautiful inside and out, kind and gentle, fiercely faithful to those she loved and the brightest light for Christ.  When someone like that has been in your world your entire life, (loving you, encouraging you, being happy for you, praying for you and being a wonderful example for you) the loss cuts deep.

In those weeks since her passing, I’ve read every text exchange between she and I, reviewed every Facebook post I could find, created an album on my iPhone with all my favorite photos of her, washed and laid the precious monkey quilt she made for River at the end of my bed, talked to and texted her kids, Pam and Rusty, and prayed big prayers of peace for her family and the Bridge Girls.  And, here I sit, processing this loss with you.

They say grief is the price we pay for having loved so much.  Those words are true.  I guess grief is like an unseen medal we wear for those we’ve loved and lost.  Grief doesn’t heal the pain.  Instead, it reveals the love.  For us to heal, we have to do the hard work of talking through those feelings, how life has changed since God called our loved one home and figure out how to move forward in a way that honors them.

My son, River, completely unprompted, pointed to the night sky through the car window as we were driving back to Dallas after Donna’s funeral.  He said, “Mom, did you know that stars are actually angels.  I mean, they are ‘lit-ra-ly’ angels.  And, you see that big, bright one right there?  I’m pretty sure that’s Donna.”  My eyes welled with tears.

The following week, on our drive to school, he prayed for Donna every single morning.  She was a special person at the top of our prayer list.  It was a daily practice for us to lift her up in prayer.  I knew she was in her heavenly home, and, in my mind, there was no longer a need to pray specifically for her but not in River’s mind.  In the final prayer he included her in that week, he said, “God, I just pray that Donna took the gospel train straight up to heaven.”  The gospel train.  I’ve never heard that phrase or it put that way.  But, one thing is for sure, Donna’s ticket was first class.

Today, as we traveled to school, River asked how Donna passed.  I told him that she had cancer and then explained (as best I could) what it was, that she lived with cancer for twenty years thanks to tests to detect cancer, emerging treatments and heaps of prayer.  He said, “Mom, Donna was very lucky to live twenty years with cancer.”  “Yes, she was,” I said.  River then said, “You know she’s cancer free in heaven, right?  There are no diseases there.  And, her house is even nicer than the one she had on earth.”  I said, “You are 100% correct, River.  Thank you so much for putting that into perspective for me.  In my heart, I’m just sad because I miss her and want to see her and text her about your speech meet and so on.”  He replied, “Mom, Donna was your friend on earth, and she still is now that she’s in heaven.  Even though you can’t see her, she’s still right there in your heart.  Now, she’s your heart friend.”  As he was telling me this, he put his precious little hand over his heart, and I knew that Donna was in mine. 

I weep as I type this.  “Heart Friend.” Have you ever heard anything sweeter?  And, have you ever heard anything more true?  I couldn’t believe that my almost seven year old son grasped the concept of how the living are to carry on without their deceased loved ones. Lit-ra-ly-  I was like, “Who’s child is this, and how can he connect something so difficult for anyone at any age to grasp and communicate it in a way that a forty-something mom understands?”  

God works in the most mysterious ways.  I can’t help but believe that each conversation with River was prompted by a good, good God.  I needed that message, and it had to come from someone that could deliver it on a heart level.  Though I already had peace in my heart, I began to feel joy again.  Joy in the memories.  Joy in the photos.  Joy in our text exchanges. Joy in knowing that she lives on in heaven, free or cancer, and in my heart, the treasure box that holds all the love she gave me.

Now, when I look into the night sky and see the brightest star, I know it’s my angel, Donna.  When I think about her heavenly home, I get joy in knowing that she cashed in her first class ticket on the gospel train to get there.  And, when I miss her the most, I’ll just put my hand over my heart and know that she is right there- now and forever, my heart friend.

If you’re reading this “blob” and having difficulty processing your own grief, I want to encourage you to talk about it as much as you can to every person you can.  Get into a quiet and cozy place with your cute little journal, and write down your feelings.  We live in a culture that encourages us to suck it up and move on.  We can never move on from loss, but we can move forward.  The only way is through.  And, on this grief journey, I’m taking lots of good memories and River’s quilt and fun photos and all the love in my heart that I hold for Donna and that she gave to me from here until eternity.

Stay Divine, 



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