Journey

The Gift of a Fingerprint

The Gift of a Fingerprint

“We wanted to change a day of mourning into a day of good joy and memories,” Kathleen said. 

After planning their father’s funeral at Heritage, one of the sisters noticed a Thumbies brochure she had received. Thumbies are personalized charms created from actual fingerprints, handprints or footprints. Combining modern scanning technology with the ancient art of lost wax casting, Thumbies fashions the prints into artistic and intricately detailed sterling silver or gold jewelry. 

5 Ways to Making Remembering Part of Your Christmas Tradition (Part 2 of 2)

5 Ways to Making Remembering Part of Your Christmas Tradition (Part 2 of 2)

Every year we'll purchase an ornament for our grief tree for people that we lost who are important to us. As we add new ornaments to our grief tree, we'll have a tangible way to see how many years we'll live through this grief.  Grief is part of who we are and what we own now, and that grief tree is a symbolic of who we are now.  

This, and 4 other ways to include remembering loved ones as part of your Christmas traditions.  

8 Things You Should Know about Your First Christmas After a Loss

8 Things You Should Know about Your First Christmas After a Loss

“Merry Christmas!”  “Happy New Year!” 

Wherever you turn at this time of year, you encounter words of good cheer and reminders to celebrate the joy of the Christmas season.  But those who are facing the first Christmas season following the loss of someone special in their lives may be wondering how they are going to simply survive the holidays, let alone find joy in them. So we asked several people we've served who all have experienced first holidays following a loss what advice they would give to those facing their own first Christmas.  In their own words ...

The Art of Grieving (Part 2 of 3): Wendy Cross, Art Prize 9 Artist

The Art of Grieving (Part 2 of 3):  Wendy Cross, Art Prize 9 Artist

“When someone’s that old you expect that death is coming someday, and you kind of dread it.  It’s always there in the back of your mind.  I was always trying to prepare myself that it would happen. It wasn’t tragic.  But it was just such a shock,” explains Wendy.  “A loss is a loss.  You expect it but you don’t.”

Joanne: Helping Others (Part 6 of 7)

Joanne:  Helping Others (Part 6 of 7)

They all have different needs.  And meeting them all, while grieving myself, was hard sometimes.  It was hard to be strong enough for me, let alone for them.  But I was their mom and it was important to me to be there for them because they’re my kids and I hurt so deeply for them.  I would have done anything to shield them from that loss, but since I couldn’t do that, I did the best I could to support them.

Joanne: Help from Others & Helping Myself (Part 5 of 7)

 Joanne:  Help from Others & Helping Myself (Part 5 of 7)

I realized early on that people grieve very differently.  One woman at a group said I grieved hard for two months but then I was done.  For me, I was still struggling four years later with trying to let go and move on with my life.  Everybody’s different.  That group helped me feel normal, though, and that what I was experiencing was normal.

Joanne: Reality (Part 2 of 7)

Joanne:  Reality                (Part 2 of 7)

Everyone has their own normal and nothing is right or wrong.  Grief is a personal thing.  Some people clear out the closet the next week and are done; others hold onto things for years and years and years.  Everyone’s different and everyone needs to figure out what is best for them.  Letting yourself grieve is healthy and necessary and that looks different for everyone.

Joanne: My Journey (Part 1 of 7)

My husband Gary died at the age of 57 on ­­­­­­­March 27, 2011.  He was a beloved husband, father of 4 (plus spouses), grandfather to 3 (at the time).  Gary had had lung cancer for 18 months.  The morning he passed away my daughters and granddaughter were there and we could tell it was almost time.  We’d been listening to music, and sometime between the songs “Wonderful, Merciful Savior” and “Word of God Speak” he breathed his last and entered the arms of Jesus.

We held his hands and told him we loved him.

It was completely peaceful.  Fittingly, the song that came on right after he passed was a gospel song titled Singing Heaven’s Song.

Gary loved life.  He owned his own concrete business and he was a hard worker.  One of his big longings he had said to the doctor was, “All I want to do is see my grandkids grow up and pour concrete.”  He just wanted to live his life!

Gary loved playing basketball at West Side Christian School on Saturday mornings with a group of guys, and one of the other guys even accidentally ended up with a black eye one time.  They were both competitive!  Gary also loved to golf.

He also loved helping other people and he would literally give people the shirt off his back.  I remember one time that he bought someone a car for $300, and he never got paid back for that, and it wasn’t an issue for him because he just wanted to help out.   For years, he served as a mentor to students at Covell School.  He was a popular mentor and every kid in the class knew who he was there for, but he also greeted all the kids and was a friend to them all.  He was such an encouragement to staff members, asking them about their lives and praying for them and their families.

Early on in our marriage he helped at Gold Avenue chapel, a small church on the west side of Grand Rapids.  He used to drive a school bus, picking up kids for Sunday school and then worship there in the mornings.  He had such a heart for the kids and people there. He had such heart for service to other people and service to our church and community.

He loved his grandkids – at the time he died he had three of them.  He just enjoyed being with them.  I remember him getting a teeny golf club for our 4-year old (at the time) granddaughter and trying to teach her how to swing that!

I wrote on his Carepage these words: “I will be honest to say this is heartbreaking to lose our beloved husband, father, and grandfather – we are grieving, crying deep sobs at times, knowing that our lives are less without him here on earth – that just doesn’t even put it into words. And not just us, but also you who grieve a beloved son, brother, uncle, nephew, cousin, friend, and all that he is to so many who adored him and respected him and were honored and blessed to have known him in some way.

Part 1 of 7.  See below for more of Joanne's story.


What about you?  How did your grief journey begin, and what treasured memories of your loved one do you hold onto?