Monday, December 19, 2011

Another Birthday...A Real Celebration

For the past two years, every benchmark of this experience of having lost my only child has been a trial. From the "celebration of her life," to the missed birthdays, graduation, Thanksgivings, Christmas and New Years, I have felt I had to put on that smile that said, "everybody relax, I am doing fine." A strange thing happened this weekend when we all gathered for Brittney's 20th birthday and balloon release...I didn't have to put on that "I'm ok" costume, and I didn't suffer the crippling grief hangover that always follows the next day. To some this might seem like a small step forward in the grieving process. To me, it is nothing short of a Christmas miracle!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Together Forever...Through the Grace of God

What gives me strength? That I know you know this now.
I may have lived almost two years without you HERE...
but I have not lived a moment WITHOUT you.
Thank you God for that amazing gift!

I lift my eyes up to the mountains,
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
maker of heaven and earth. Psalms 121:1-2

Saturday, October 1, 2011

When Faith Stops the Fall

Many parents who had lost children told me that the second year would be harder than the first...and they were so right. In the second year, I was no longer numb, no longer in denial, and was left with the full force reality that this is forever. As I was coming up on the one year anniversary of Brittney's death, I was not prepared for the setback that would hit me on November 8th and the months to follow. In my desperation I clung to what I knew was my only hope for heavenly Father.

It is overwhelming when I think about the change from this time last year. Just a month short of the second anniversary of my sweet angel's death, I feel the strength of the Holy Spirit on a daily basis. I love life, live in the light of the Lord, and look forward to each day knowing that Brittney is safe and living happily in the grace of God.

Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." Mathew 19:14

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Friends and Fireworks

Dear Brittney~

I remember the 4th of July being one of your favorite days of the year. You loved to go down to the lake with all your friends early in the morning and set out the blankets to save your spots for later when it would be packed with people. I have talked to some of your friends, and they are all heading down in the morning to lay out their blankets...and they are ALL thinking about you. They may not realize it, but I know exactly where you will be. So watch over them, keep them safe, and enjoy the firework show.

Love Mom

P.S. I know you already know this, but even though I miss you everyday...

I am totally OK now

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Good, the Bad, and the Bathroom: Floating in the Eye of the Storm

I consider it a sign of true healing that I can finally look back and think about those first months after Brittney's death without a surge of raw emotion. As the memories come into focus, I am noticing some interesting things. I lived those many months as if in a movie where the audio was running a second behind the video feed. Nothing was really in sync, and I always had a strange feeling that my mind was no longer fully connected to my body. At the time, I would have described it as "being numb" or "in a fog". Now, as I look at it with a more objective clarity, I am astounded at the beauty of that transitional period in my life.

The "bad" in the aftermath of Brittney's death needs little explanation. My whole world exploded into a million pieces in the space of three hours. My life would never be the same again; and at the time, it seemed like it had ended just as if it had been me in the accident that night. The "bathroom incident," which I just remembered for the first time resently, is a true reflection of how lost I felt during this period of my life.

By January following that ill-fated November night, my husband and I had come to a point where we moved through our daily lives in a muted existance...both clearly wrapped up in the kind of grief that leaves no room for words. On the way home from a job interview, we had stopped at a McDonald's to use the restroom, and I followed him silently into the building, so lost in my thoughts that I was barely aware of where I was going. It wasn't until I was behind Ryan at the stall door that I realized I had followed him right into the men's restroom. I was mortified, and turned immediately to make a quick exit. Unfortunately, I had to exit past the urinals where a man was frozen with the same morified look that must have been on my face. It was a sign to me about how truly disconnected I was. The beauty in this period of my life is just now revealing itself...not in the embarrassing, disconnected, numb experiences that overwhelmed me at that time, but instead from the protective light that I can see now as I look back to those trying months of my life.

I lived all of those moments in what can only be described as "the eye of the storm." At no other time in my life have I moved so perfectly forward, and at no other time in my life would that have seemed so impossible. It is beyond comprehension that in the middle of such an incredible storm, something peaceful, reassuring, glorious and graceful could have been taking place all around me. But as I look back now, it is crystal clear. God is, was, and forever will be my "eye of the storm". I will spend that rest of my life in awe of this miracle.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

One Incredible Mother's Day

This is my second Mother's Day without Brittney. Last year at this time, I was still in a daze over her sudden departure from my life. I also struggled with the feeling that, since she was my only child, I may not even qualify any more as a true mother. I have realized over the course of the last year that the experience of motherhood can never be taken away.

This morning, I woke up to the familiar sound of an incoming text message....followed by another...and another...and another! This pattern went on for a good part of the day. These happy Mother's Day messages came from family, friends, past students and MANY of Brittney's close friends. They were filled with funny memories, assurances that Britt would be hovering over me all day today, and reminders of the wonderful relationship Brittney and I had. I briefly wondered if they had all gotten together and planned this bombardment of well wishes, but then I remembered that they were from a number of unrelated social groups in different locations. Regardless of how it happened, I consider it a Mother's Day miracle. None of those people can truly know how beautifully they have honored the memory of Brittney and helped me once again to feel the specialness of this day.*

Monday, April 18, 2011

Not MY Girly-Girl

Brittney could NEVER be described as "sugar-and-spice-and-everything-nice"....she was always most comfortable on a soccer field or basketball court or anywhere else she could showboat and be the center of attention. She was by no means a "girly-girl" and never was the slightest bit interested in formality or ceremony. I feel lucky to have these two precious pictures of times that she gave in to the high school social norms, and actually attended a formal dance. was not her style; and yes...she is clearly out of her element as is obvious from her less-than-thrilled expression in both pictures, but I love that she had the experience. She didn't get a chance to receive her high school diploma, she didn't walk down the aisle with the man that she loved, and she didn't feel the joy of looking into the eyes of her first-born baby, but she was always a risk-taker. I am thankful that during her short time here, she wasn't afraid to live life...even when she wasn't in her comfort zone.

Thursday, April 14, 2011


If I dropped something precious and it broke into pieces, I wouldn't go for the scotch tape or a glue stick to repair it. Yet that is what I have done all my life by following a path of self-reliance and one-dimensional faith. It was when I finally faced broken-ness that I couldn't attempt to fix on my own, that I first had the incredible experience of God's workmanship. He came in with steady hands and super-glue and restored the the pieces to a beautiful whole. I lost my precious Brittney and found a true relationship with God at the same time. I have thrown out the scotch tape, and am now turning it ALL over to the Man with the super-glue. In my whole life, I have never felt such peace. I miss my daughter...but I love my life of faith.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Embracing the Journey

Life is a journey...everyone can expect ups and downs, triumphs and trials. For me, it was the utterly unexpected...the unimagineable that shocked me into really taking a hard look at my own journey. The year prior to Brittney's death, she and I had faced some extreme challenges in our lives, both together and individually. Miraculously, everything that had been broken was on the mend at the time of her passing...and that wasn't an accident, it was truly devine intervention.

Over the past 18 months, I have definitely suffered the kind of grief that only those who have lost a child can really wrap their heads around, but at the same time, I have been given so many gifts from God that it overwhelms me just to think about it.
At critical moments, I have experienced the kind of peace and inner joy that I didn't even know existed. I have not felt a second of loneliness since Brittney's death. At first I thought that was because God allowed Brittney's spirit to stay right next to me, to help me with the pain. Now I realize that it was God Himself who has remained so close to me all this time. I was also able to relocate over 2500 miles, put my daughter to rest, re-strengthen my strained marriage with the love of my life (Brittney's dad), find a wonderful new place to live, get a job that I love, and find a church that I would be lost without....all this within the first six months after this devastating loss. I know without a doubt that was orchestrated by God, not me!

God has picked me up and guided me in the right direction. He has led me to people and places that are clearly integral pieces to finishing this beautiful puzzle. He reminds me on a daily basis that my journey is not over, and that as difficult as it may seem at times, I need to finish the race...and He will be right by my side when I do.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Getting the God "Go"

I just attended a weekend Living Proof Ministries conference with bible teacher and author, Beth Moore. I still have trouble wrapping my mind around the way God has taken hold of my life and led me to answers over the past two years...and all I had to do was let him! The metaphor Beth used for her message came from a segment of Jeremiah 31:21-“Set up road signs; put up guideposts. Take note of the highway, the road that you take...." She used the concepts of STOP, YEILD, and GO in coordination with scripture that included these ideas to point out the plan God has for each of us. It is so bizarre how in a room of 6,300 people, it feels like He is speaking directly to me!

While the stop and yeild concepts offered an incredible amount of understanding and acceptance to me regarding the places I have been recently, it was during the GO message that every person around me ceased to exist and I felt like God was talking just to me! The "take away" that I have from this awesome intervention is "You are there, she is safe with me; you have a purpose, she has served hers. She will be here waiting when you have served yours."

In an unmistakeably clear voice, God said Go...and now I will!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

My Daily Bread "Aha" Moment

"And give us this day our daily bread...." I've read it, known it, recited it for longer than I can remember. I had always interpreted the meaning in a very literal way: The Lord will provide us with the food and water we need to survive. He will give us food when there seems to be the fish and loaves, and the manta in the Bible. Boy did I miss the boat!

The sensation of being filled with the Holy Spirit is new to me, and that is what sparked the aha moment. "Daily bread" has nothing to do with food, it's about something so much more critical to survival: A true relationship with God. The irony is that without the tragedy of losing the most important person in my life, I would not have discovered what was really most important in my life. When the realization hit me, it was one of those experiences where it feels like your heart skips a beat and time stands still for a fraction of a minute. At the weakest point in my life, it was God's love that gave me the strength I didn't have.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

One Sweet Dream...

For the past six months, the dreams have been relentless. Throughout my life, I had rarely remembered my dreams...and even after Brittney's death, that remained the same. But coming up on my daughter's one year angelversary, this changed drastically. Here's the weird part: The dreams are fast-moving and feel like they last all night, yet I never wake up. I remember vivid (and strange) details throughout the next day. While the events that take place in these dreams are a mix of ordinary events, bizarre happenings, and on occasion, borderline nightmare material, they rarely have anything to do with trauma that has gone on in my life. The biggest issue when this all started was that I would wake up exhausted like I had been up all night, and then I would obsess the entire next day about what it all meant. I went to my doctor, was referred to a specialist, saw a counselor and was prescribed medication. While none of this stopped the dreams, I have been able to accept the pattern and dismiss the dreams each morning. Since I stopped allowing them to attack my psyche, the dreams no longer get the best of me.

While most of these dreams have made absolutely no sense to me and don't seem to connect to anything in my real life, there was one sweet exception. In this dream, I was in the shower getting ready for work. Brittney was sitting, legs extended, on the edge of the tub with the shower curtain draped over her shoulder. She was persuasively reeling off all the reasons I should call in sick to work that day so she and I could go shopping. I objected over and over (just like I had done countless times in the last few years of her life when she played the "get mom to take me shopping" game). But it all ended the way it always did...with Brittney saying, "you know you want to!!!" and me caving in....because she was right, I really did want to!

Brittney was so amazingly real in this dream that when I woke up, I wasn't sure that it hadn't really happened. This is the only time I have dreamt of Brittney since her death, but it has also triggered memories of a series of startling dreams I had about Brittney and I when she was just a little girl. I know better than to let all this take up space in my brain and make me feel crazy, but I have decided to pack it all away in the back of my mind, and wait for the answers (if there are any) to come.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Lived life....and loved to laugh

Oh YES...there were times when her high jinx were over the top. I had to go into her school more than once for "situations" that had quickly gone bad as the adults in charge had failed to appreciate the humor. As a teacher myself, I definitely know that harmless fun from a kid's point of view can very quickly turn into disruption and chaos in the classroom. The reprimands she received at school and at home in these cases pretty much fell on deaf ears. It was a part of her spirit...who she was.

Now, as I browse through memories on a daily basis, these are some of the ones that surface quickly to the top and replay over and over. My Brittney's sense of humor was golden. When I think about all the fun we had during her short lifetime...all the hilarious things she said and did, and all the rooms she lit up with her personality, I just can't help but smile.

When I ran across this picture recently, I had to laugh out loud. This is Brittney making fun of my "WAY too eighties" leather backpack that I carried to and from school each day. I don't know where that backpack went to, but if I could find it, I would use it every day again just to remember how mortified she was that I actually went out in public with that thing on my back!

I love you, Britt! Your smile and laughter will forever stay in my heart and mind.

Saturday, January 29, 2011


With my mind still on the book Heaven is For Real, I keep thinking about a strong message that came through to me regarding how much Jesus loves and protects children. I consider myself a child of God, and would have normally interpreted that as applying to me and all believers...but this message was more than that. It was about a "quality" of belief; a "child-like" acceptance from a population that doesn't know how to doubt, or worry, or grieve.

Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." Matthew 19:14 (NIV)

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Heaven is for Real

I just finished reading Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo, about his four-year old son Colton's amazing reports of having been to Heaven during a life threatening surgery. As a child-loss mom, I found so many important reassurances in those pages. I have always been certain of Brittney's salvation, but during her nearly 18 years of life, we rarely spent more than a few days apart...never more than a week. Being away from her this past year has been extremely difficult. Reading this book gave me sort of a feeling of getting a "letter from camp" about what a wonderful time she is having. This is a must read!

Monday, January 17, 2011


If I could Skype to Heaven,
I’d do it every day.
We’d talk about the weather,
You’d see that I’m OK.

We’d laugh about old memories;
Relive those times we had.
We’d know that God had purpose
In times that seemed so bad.

We’d talk for long, long hours,
Not wanting it to end,
We’d make plans for tomorrow
When we’d Skype together again.

Technology's amazing,
But Heaven beyond its scope,
May our bond forever strengthen,
Through blind faith, and love, and hope!

                              ~Traci Eccles

Sunday, January 16, 2011


Peace - free slideshow
Still putting together the "pieces"...
On the night of Brittney's death, her dad was 2,400 miles away in Washington state. Everything had happened so quickly, I didn't even call him until after she had passed. The shock and devastation he felt when I made that gut-wrenching call is indescribable.
Earlier that night (about the time of the accident), Ryan had run across an old laptop that we hadn't used for years. Out of curiosity, he booted it up to see whether it still worked. As it came to life, a file opened and pictures started popping up on the screen. This had never happened before and he found it odd, even without the knowledge that something catastophic was happening in Corpus Christi, Texas that would change our lives forever. The pictures on the screen were of Brittney and her friends, many of which featured Britt with a big smile displaying a peace sign.
In thinking about that incident later, Ryan and I were both convinced that it was Brittney's way to say goodbye to her dad, and to let him know she was at peace. Over the past year, I have continued to run across pictures of Brittney with that familiar peace sign. Strangely, I hadn't noticed what a constant theme this was for her. I can't help but feel there is much more to this sign than I realize. One thing that I know is that my angel, Brittney, IS at peace with the Lord!