"For you have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling; I will walk before the LORD in the land of the living." Psalm 116:8&9



Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Fear

I was hoping for answers today. I did not get them. Our oncologist was not satisfied with the information we got from the pathology report, so he is sending it off for further testing. We are hoping to know more next week.  

In the past few days, anxiety began creeping into my heart. And with so may questions left unanswered, my imagination has gone to some very dark, very scary places. Tonight, as William and I read the Bible before bed, the Lord used a favorite story of ours to very strongly encourage my weary, fearful soul. Here is an exert from our reading:

Then Jesus turned to his wind-torn friends, "Why were you scared?" he asked.  "Did you forget who I Am? Did you believe your fears, instead of me?"
Jesus' friends were quiet. As quiet as the wind and the waves. And into their hearts came a different kind of storm.
"What kind of man is this?" they asked themselves anxiously.  "Even the wind and the waves obey him!" they said, because they didn't understand.  They didn't realize yet that Jesus was the Son of God.
Jesus' fiends had been so afraid, they had only seen the big waves.  They had forgotten that, if Jesus was with them, then they had nothing to be afraid of.  
No matter how small their boat - or how big the storm.
(The Captain of the storm, the Jesus Storybook Bible)

I am uncertain of just how big this storm we are facing will be. But God loves William more than I do. And He is the one in charge of the storm. So I will trust. God, grant me faith.

Continue to pray with us. Continue to hope. We will continue to fight, no matter how hard it gets. Come, Lord Jesus, come...

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Waiting

My sweet little William did so well during surgery today! Around 7:30 this morning, the doctors did a biopsy of the tumor that is in his knee. They originally told me it would take about 15 minutes to do the biopsy - it took an hour. So, there I sat in the waiting room, surrounded by friends and family, waiting. And waiting. An hour isn't a long time to wait, but when you are waiting to hear news about a tumor in your baby, each minute takes forever! And then the doctor came out...

The results of the biopsy were inconclusive. They will be doing further testing to determine whether or not the tumor is benign or malignant. So we wait.  

I am a pretty patient person. I wait well. Or so I thought. I have discovered that I wait well for trivial things. But over the last few weeks, as we have waited for Will's cast to come off, waited to get an appointment to see the oncologist, waited for MRI results, waited for surgery, waited for biopsy results, I have learned that I suck at waiting. I want results. I want a plan. I want the world to stop so that we can get William healthy. And every moment that I have to wait makes me feel helpless, fearful and angry.  

As I have waited over the last few weeks, I have been given a glimpse of what is was to wait on the coming Messiah. For Israel, waiting all of those centuries for the promised Savior was painful. Every time they were taken into captivity, every time someone waged war against them, they were reminded of the yet-to-be fulfilled promise of a Savior coming to rescue them. The words of the Christmas carol show us the pain of their waiting so well: 

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,

That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.

They mourned while they waited. But their weeping ended - just like the night. Morning broke -  God was faithful. He sent Jesus. And yet, we still wait. Not for the birth of the Messiah, but for the second coming. Romans 8 tells us that all of creation waits eagerly, with groaning for the return of Christ.

So this week, we remember and we wait. We remember the first coming of our Savior, long ago, in the town of Bethlehem, one starry night. We wait, with eager anticipation, for the return of our Savior who promises to rescue us and make all things new. And I wait - for biopsy results and a plan, knowing that no matter what they might be, a sovereign, loving God promises that He will work all things for our good and His glory. May I feel the angst of the need for Jesus and the peace that comes from being His child.

Thank you for all of your prayers and encouragement over the last weeks. They have been a sweet blessing. Please continue to pray and hope with us. I am confident He is able to do far more than we could ever ask.

 

Friday, December 17, 2010

Words

I haven't blogged in a while. I haven't had the words needed to describe what has been going on in our lives.

While there have been no words to write, there have been an abundance of words running around my mind. It has been hard to quiet my mind. Hard to focus. Hard to sleep deeply.

And there have been lots of words spoken to me. Words I don't want to hear. I like to call them "dirty" words. They are not profane or vulgar. They are not R-rated. But they are words that make your heart cringe. Simple words like "concerned" and "abnormal." And more complex words like "growth," "tumor," "oncologist," "MRI," "surgery." It's even worse when these words are spoken about your child.

During the first week of November, William fractured his leg. It was a frustrating experience because there was no event that would explain a fracture. No fall. No traumatic episode. Just unexplained pain and swelling. We saw a doctor and had numerous x-rays. He was put in a cast that went from his thigh to his toes. He was grumpy and in pain. And we waited. We waited for the fracture to heal. After a month, we took the cast off. His fracture was healed, but we discovered a growth in his knee. We were referred to an oncologist who ordered an MRI for the next morning. We met with the oncologist today for the results.

William has a tumor that starts a few inches above his knee, goes down the side of his knee and wraps around the bottom of his knee cap. On Wednesday morning, William will have a biopsy done. We will immediately know if the tumor is benign or malignant. The doctor has a course of action planned for both scenarios. We would appreciate your prayers.

In all of this, the Holy Spirit has impressed upon me the truth about words. When I have no words, He interceded to the Father on my behalf (Romans 8:26). When "dirty" words cause me to fear, He reminds me that Jesus upholds the universe and my son with His word (Hebrews 1:3). And most importantly, He reminds me that my hope is found in The Word, Jesus (John 1:14).








Sunday, December 5, 2010

Traditions: The Christmas Train

It's not Christmas in our house until the Christmas Train is set up. The Christmas Train was originally Barry's mother's. When she passed away, it became a part of our Christmas tradition. It was always Daddy and William's job to set up the train. This year, William and I set up the train. It provides hours of entertainment. More importantly, it makes us smile and brings back sweet memories of special people who are no longer with us.  

Merry Christmas!

Christmas 2007



Christmas 2008




Christmas 2009

Christmas 2010


Thursday, November 25, 2010

Wonderful Deeds

"I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.  I will be glad and exult in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High." Psalm 9:1&2

In the weeks before Barry died, the Lord impressed the importance of this verse upon my heart. I made a list of all the things that He had done in our lives and the lives of those we loved during the last five years. It was a beautiful list - a list full of miracles and blessings. Many of the things on the list, while beautiful, came during difficult circumstances. Salvation during cancer, a healthy baby born to friends after the doctors told them there was little hope, etc.  

This Thanksgiving, I sit here making another list. A list of wonderful deeds of the Lord during the last 8 months. I won't share that list with you - it is much too long and much too personal. But I will tell you that out of tragedy, God has showered blessings upon us in abundance. While there have been many tears of pain and grief this year, there have been just as many tears of thanksgiving.  

He is good. He does good. Always. And I am thankful...


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Not Sleeping In Their Bed - Again

My mom and dad will not be sleeping in their bed tonight. In fact, they haven't slept in their bed for the last several nights. They are sleeping at my great-grandfather's house. His wife passed away last week and they are staying with him to take care of him. They will feed him, clean the house, give him his medicine and begin the process of helping him deal with all the legal and financial issues that come after the death of a spouse. They will cry with him, hold him, read the Bible to him and pray over him.  

I know they will do all of these things because I have seen them do this before for someone else - for me. When Barry passed away, my parents stayed with us for two weeks. They fed me, cleaned my house, got up with the kids each morning and played with them during the day. They went with me to the funeral home, met with the lawyer with me, helped me fill out countless legal and financial forms and helped me pay the bills. They cried with William and I, held us, read the Bible to us and prayed over us.  

Eight months later, my mom still calls me every night to check on me and tell me she loves me. My dad comes over and takes care of the yard. (He even came over to kill a monstrous spider in my herb garden once. Don't judge me - it was huge. You would have called your daddy too if were in your backyard...) They keep my kids once a week so I can have a break and rest. They help me when I have financial questions. They have walked with me through this tragedy in a way that has helped me to feel safe and loved.  And they did all of this while grieving themselves.

There are no words to convey the depth of gratitude I feel towards my parents. They have shown over and over again what it means to truly love someone. They are a beautiful example of humility, sacrificial love and faithfulness. They work harder than anyone I know. And they do all of this, not just for me, but for so many.  

Their actions are not birthed out of obligation. They do not act to earn the favor of man. Their actions are birthed out of a genuine love for Jesus and their desire to see him glorified in the lives of everyone they know. Every time they serve another, they do so with the hope that that person will either come to know Jesus as Savior or come to love and trust Him more deeply.

Tonight will be a long night for my parents. They will get up numerous times to help a widow. There will be little sleep, lots of work and lots of tears. But my great-grandfather will feel deeply loved during one of the hardest seasons of his life. And those of us watching will be challenged to love others sacrificially. Like they do. Like Jesus loves us.

I want to love people like my parents love people. I want to love my children like my parents love their children. I look forward to the day that I can serve them the way that they have served so many.  

Friday, October 15, 2010

Telling William Daddy Died

Note: This is a post I have hesitated to write. It is about an extremely personal and painful moment in my life and in the life of my son. I share it, not to appease your curiosity or to elicit an emotional response or gain attention. In the last several weeks I have interacted with several people who have experienced loss and had to explain death to a young child. While I am not an expert on the subject, I have walked that very difficult road. My hope and prayer in sharing our story is that it would be a help to those who will also have to walk that road.  

I had to tell my three-year-old son that his daddy had died. It was one of the most difficult and painful things I have ever had to do. It isn't something you prepare for, study for or gather advice for. Tragedy strikes and it has to be done. Here is how it played out for our family:

Who: I had to decide two things in deciding the "who" of our story. Who would tell William about Barry's death? Who would be in the room when he was told? To be honest, these were easy decisions for me to make. I strongly felt that it was my job to tell William. I am his mother. In losing Barry, I became solely responsible for his life and his raising. This was a defining moment in his life and I would be the one to walk through it with him. I also strongly felt that it was an extremely personal moment that was for us alone. No one else was allowed to be in the house when I told William. (Yes, that means I asked everyone to leave for an hour.) I wanted us to be alone for two reasons. First, William is extremely social and sensitive. I did not want him to be influenced by others' emotions and reactions. Second, I wanted him to have the freedom to say, feel and react in any way he needed to without fearing what everyone else in the room would do.  

When: Barry died in the morning. I hadn't slept in over 72 hours. So after we finished everything at the hospital, I went to my parents' house to take a nap. I knew I would need sleep to be able to think clearly and control my emotions when I told William. I also knew that once I told him, I would need to be available to answer questions and comfort him. I couldn't just tell him and disappear. So I slept first. Then, that evening, we had the conversation.

Where: I told William in our home. I wanted to tell him somewhere safe and somewhere where I could control the situation. I told him in our living room. It is a "neutral" room for him that he doesn't spend a lot of time in. I chose to tell him there because I did not want to attach negative memories to his bedroom - a place we had spent a great deal of time and effort to make a safe and peaceful place for him or his playroom.  

Why: "Why?" seems like a silly thing to explain, but it is actually the most important. I'll explain the process I went through to tell William in the next section, but why I chose to do it the way I did was this: My goal in everything I do in parenting William is to point him to Jesus. So, in telling William that his daddy had died, my goal was to point him to Jesus. Jesus is where he would find comfort. Jesus is where he would find healing. Jesus is where he could take his questions, fear, anger and pain. Jesus was what would give him hope. And in the coming years, when he looks back on this tragedy, I want him to see Jesus. That Jesus loves him and carried him through this.  

How: While it seemed like time stood still, the actual conversation I had with William only took a few minutes. I used his Bible - the same one we read out of every night. We read the story of Jesus' crucifixion. We talked about that fact that Jesus died - his body stopped working. He did not breath, speak, move, hear, see or think any more. This also meant that, once He died, he no longer felt pain any more. Then I told William that his daddy had died too. I explained that, just like Jesus, daddy's body no longer worked any more and that he was gone. We talked about the fact that Jesus died on the cross to take the punishment for our sins. We are sinners. We deserve to die. When we die, we deserve separation from God because God is perfect. But, because God loves us and wants a relationship with us, He sent Jesus to take our punishment for sin by dying on the cross. I told William that his daddy loved and trusted Jesus with his whole heart. (This was something that William knew from other conversations we had had before Barry died.) Because Jesus had died on the cross and because daddy loved and trusted Jesus, when daddy died he went to heaven to be with God. We talked about heaven and that daddy would stay in heaven with God. And I told him that daddy would never come back to earth with us.  

William listened and cried. I think he cried more because I was crying than out of actual grief. Over the next several weeks and months, we would have this conversation or similar ones over and over again. He asked questions and cried a lot. The above conversation was the beginning point of him understanding death.  

There is a lot I don't remember about that day. I'm sure I made a fool of myself throughout the day. But I remember my conversation with William so clearly. I remember that, in the midst of overwhelming grief and pain, the Holy Spirit spoke through me to bring truth and comfort to my son. I didn't know what to say. But God took care of the words for me. He was so generous and so faithful.  

There is not a set way to tell children about death. The important thing is to love, protect and comfort them while pointing them to truth - to Jesus.  

Father, bless these words and the people reading them. Open our eyes to the truth of your gospel. For those experiencing tragedy and loss, hold them close and comfort them. As we walk with our children through grief, give us strength and wisdom to point them to Jesus. Thank you for Jesus and what He did on the cross. I love and trust you. Amen.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Happy Birthday Barry!

Today is my husband's birthday. This year it has been such a bittersweet day. It is a sweet day because it is the day God blessed me and so many others with the life of a man that would show me how to love and chase my Savior with passion and zeal. I love today. I am thankful for today - for the gift of Barry's life. It is also a sweet day because I know that it is, by far, the best birthday he has ever had - in heaven, at the feet of Jesus, where joy is ever increasing. But it is also a bitter day. I miss him. I selfishly wish he were still here. I wish I had more time with him. The pain of what I am missing has brought many tears today.

So, how do you celebrate the birthday of some one who has passed away? It has been very important to me to learn how to grieve and learn how to remember Barry well. He was a precious part of my life. I don't want to ignore special days because they are painful. I refuse to not talk about him because it hurts or might make others uncomfortable. I am passionate about making sure our kids know who there daddy was and celebrate his life. But on days like today, it becomes difficult to take those desires and come up with a "plan" for accomplishing them. I've spent the past month thinking and praying about how to handle today - for myself and the kids. And here is what we ended up doing:

William goes to school on Thursday, so this morning we followed our normal routine. It was helpful to have to get up and get moving. Then, Layla and I ran some errands and met some dear friends for lunch. I am so thankful to have friends who will help me celebrate a hard day. We ate at Freebirds, talked about life and celebrated the many blessing God has given us. After picking William up from school, we went to the grocery store to get two things: flowers and balloons. The flowers were for me - flowers make me happy. Even on the saddest of days, I think it helps to be surrounded by beautiful things. The balloons were for William and Barry. We ordered a dozen royal blue balloons (Barry's favorite color). Then we took our balloons to the park and let them go. We sent our balloons to heaven to daddy for his birthday. As William released his balloons, he started screaming, "Happy Birthday Daddy!" We watched our balloons float to heaven. Then, all on his own, William started blowing kisses into the air. He figured if we could send daddy balloons for his birthday, we could also send him kisses. It was my favorite moment of the day. My family came over tonight to have dinner. We played and ate a great meal. We talked about different things and just enjoyed our time together. Then we had cake. Chocolate cake. My husband loved chocolate cake.  

I'm sure our method of celebrating Barry's birthday will change over the years. As the kids grow older and their understanding of death and heaven deepens, we will do different things to help them understand, cope and celebrate. But we will always celebrate. And I know/hope/trust that each year will become a little less bitter and a little more sweet.  

The house is quiet now. The kids are in bed and everyone else has gone home. To everyone who has called, emailed and prayed today - thank you. Your compassion has been a precious blessing to a hurting heart and I am so thankul for you.  

Here are some pictures from our day:

William getting ready to release his balloons

Letting them go, one at a time...

Bye balloons!  Happy Birthday Daddy!

Layla watching the balloons float away

"Mmmm... cake..."

Happy Birthday Barry! 

Sunday, September 26, 2010

An Update on Layla Joy


I know many of you read this blog to get updates on the kids and how they are doing. Thank you for loving them and praying for them, especially during the last 7 months. This last week was an important week for Layla. We had her 18 month check-up with the pediatrician - it was an important one for several reasons.

A few weeks after Layla was born, she developed a benign tumor on her lip (a hemangioma). It was a relatively common birth mark that is usually untreated and goes away on its own. But when they are on the face (especially the eyes and mouth), treatment is needed to prevent complications. Since we caught Layla's hemangioma early, her treatment was easier than most, but did involve giving her strong medication for 9  months. The medication was a steroid and had some harsh side effects on her little body. Most of the side effects went away when she stopped taking the medication, but steroids can stunt your growth. (We Keldies are vertically challenged people anyways...) When we took Layla off her medicine, she quickly fell off all growth charts.  She lost weight. Usually, parents feel like their babies are outgrowing their clothes too fast. We were concerned because Layla actually went back in sizes and wore her clothes for much longer than she should have. For the last 10 months we have been monitoring her growth very closely and her 18 month check-up was a marker too see if she had caught up.

Also, in the months and weeks before Barry died, Layla was babbling a lot. When I came home from the hospital after Barry died, Layla said her first two words - "daddy" and "momma". They were not accidents. She said them repeatedly when she needed me or was looking for her daddy. A few days after Barry died, Layla basically went silent. For almost two months, she did not make any vocalizations except crying and laughing. After two months, she began cooing again and eventually started babbling. At her 15 month appointment, she only said one word. I knew her delays in verbal development were part of her dealing with losing her daddy and the doctor agreed. We decided to reevaluate her at 18 months to see if she improved and to decide if she needed therapy.  

Needless to say, I was curious and a little bit anxious to see how she was doing at her appointment. I was confident that God was in control and was taking care of her. But I was anxious about what role I needed to play to best care for her.  

Her appointment was wonderful. She is finally back on the growth charts (!!!) and is very advanced in her physical development (she has her daddy's coordination!). The doctor was impressed with how healthy she has been. And, drum roll please... she is exactly where she should be in her verbal development. She is not nearly as talkative as her brother, but she does have the verbal skills she should have and is improving each day.  

Aside from the development side, Layla is doing wonderful. She embodies her middle name, Joy. She is full of laughter and joy. She adores her brother and wants to go everywhere he goes and do everything he does. (If William gets put in time out, Layla goes and sits with him.) She loves to dance and read. She has recently started to spend lots of time "taking care" of her baby dolls. She loves to kick balls and run.  

Layla is a daily reminder of God's generous provision in my life. When He gave me her, he brought into my life a joy that I had never known. He has been faithful to care for her every day of her life and I know that He will continue to do so. I cannot wait to see what God has in store for my sweet girl - I know it will be big and beautiful.  

Sweet Father, continue to bless Layla Joy. Bless her with good health and a joyful heart. Protect her from evil, fear and harm. Reveal yourself to her little heart and save her at a young age. Thank you for the beautiful blessing that she is to our family. I love you and trust you with her life. In your Son's sweet name, Amen.  

I'll do an update on William soon...

Friday, September 24, 2010

Home-Builders

In the weeks after Barry's death, so many people reached out to me, encouraging me with Scripture, prayer and kind words. It was a blessing that cannot be adequately described with words on a blog. I was/am so thankful.

During that time, two different people spoke the same idea to me that penetrated my heart and mind. They were both people that I greatly admire and respect. One was a widow who had walked the same path that I was setting out on. Her words carried so much weight because I knew she knew what I was struggling with. Even more, she is a godly woman who has used her life to proclaim the truths of the gospel all over the world - I want to be like her. The other was a sweet friend who is a missionary. He is one of those men who chooses his words carefully, whose words are always full of godly wisdom and truth - I want my son to be like him.

They both spoke of something that my heart desperately wanted. They both spoke of a fear that was overwhelming. They spoke of what one would call "home-builders."  

You see, not only was I dealing with the grief of losing my best friend and husband, I was also dealing with the fear of how to live life without him. When you get married and build a life with someone, you each have roles and jobs. Without Barry, I was now responsible for every aspect of my life. I was also solely responsible for every aspect of my childrens' lives. No pressure there...

Here is what these two friends said to me:

"Again, I am so thankful for His presence - that He is watching over you, that He is a husband to you for now.  You will learn more about that as you watch Him at work in your life.  He takes care of me like a husband - people offering things I would never think to ask, comforting me, giving me wisdom for all kinds of decisions, teaching me His intimate presence, that oneness that you understood with Barry - which has helped with the loneliness."

"I also learned to appreciate all the more the “home-builders” in my life.  It is kind of so many to point to the sky and say, “Look!  The storm is gone!  We are thankful with you.”  But there are those few precious saints who say, “The storm is gone.  But everything you knew was injured by it.  Let me get my tools—I am going to help you build again.”  Please forgive me if this is too forward.  But I am asking God to rise up strong men and faithful women as home-builders with you in this time."

I share this with those of you reading for this reason - to show you that God is faithful.  He hears and answers the prayers of his children.  He knows our needs and meets them in beautiful ways.  

I have had several friends step into my life and become home-builders since Barry passed away. And this week, that has been demonstrated in a big way. After Barry died, I was left with two cars. After several weeks of prayer and just letting some of my emotions settle, I made a decision about which car I would keep and which car I would try to sell. Then, I was faced with the task of actually selling the car. Now here's the problem I faced: I've never bought or sold a car. My parents gave me a car to go to college. Every car I've had since then, Barry bought for me or sold for me. I didn't know the first thing about how to sell a car. And to be honest, I didn't want to know how to sell a car!  

But God knew my fears and my needs. After hearing that I had made a decision about which car I was wanting to sell, one of my best friends informed me that her husband was going to sell my car for me. I cannot express the gratitude I felt for this help. He came and got my car to take to his house (they refused to keep it at my house, not wanting strangers coming to the house to look at the car). He made some repairs on it. He posted it on Craig's List and fielded all the questions and calls. He did the research and found the help we needed to make sure everything was legally taken care of correctly.  

While in the process of selling my car, he was injured playing softball and his ankle was shattered. He had to have surgery. And having every reason to quit, he continued to help me and sold my car this week.  

In all of this, God has been so faithful and so generous. It took several months to sell my car. Sure, God could have sold it in a couple of days. But I think he allowed it to take some time. He was showing me that not only is he faithful, but he had given me friends that would be faithful in being home-builders in my life.  

So, thank you Beau and Melissa Schmidt! Not only are you some of the funnest people I know, you are a sweet gift from the Lord and a beautiful example of his goodness.  


(And just so you know, the Schmidts didn't just sell my car. They watch my kids. Melissa has cleaned my house, planned my birthday party, spent hours crying and praying with me and for me and has been a safe place for my son to grieve the loss of his daddy. And they don't just do this for me. They do this for lots of other people.)

"And the King will answer them, "Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me." Matthew 25:40

Sunday, September 19, 2010

In this world you will have trouble...

It is amazing how generous God is. In the difficult, dark moments of life, He is there. He is at work. He is faithful to carry us through those moments.

Barry was in the hospital for less than 48 hours before he died. To me, it seemed like weeks. On the morning he died, I met with his doctor at 5am. The doctor did not have good news and hope was gone. We made plans for the course of action for the day. We knew that Barry would not live through the day.

The ICU was closed to visitors from 6-8am while nurses changed shifts. After getting the worst news of my life, I had to wait 2 hours before I could go back into my husband's room. Knowing it would be a long day, my parents insisted I eat and took me to a nearby restaurant. It was one of the most surreal moments of my life.

There were lots of people eating that morning - talking and laughing and going about their normal day. As we sat down, my eyes filled with tears. At that point, I didn't care what anyone else thought. The waitress came and took our drink order. What an awkward moment for her! When she came back, I had somewhat pulled it together. I had ordered a Dr Pepper and she handed me my drink in a styrafoam cup. She had drawn a butterfly and smiley face on it, trying to cheer me up. I think my parents told her briefly what was going on, but I really don't know for sure. She was very respectful - she took our order, brought us our food quickly and kept our drinks filled without being intrusive or chatty.

As we finished our meal, she came to our table and told us our ticket had been taken care of. Then she placed a piece of paper on the table in front of me and said, "I am praying for you." Then she walked away. As I looked at the paper, my eyes once again filled with tears. But this time, they were not tears of grief, but tears of overwhelming gratitude. Here is the piece of paper:


She very easily could have said and done nothing. She didn't have to comp our meal. She didn't have to reach out to me. In fact, she took a risk. She had no idea how I would respond. But she saw someone hurting and did the most loving thing she could do - she showed me Jesus. She reminded me that, despite my troubles, Jesus was in control. Despite the loss I was experiencing, Jesus would win.

On the darkest day of my life, God was not absent. It was quite the opposite. He was there. He was close. He used a college girl, a stranger, to remind me of His victory over sin and death. He broke through the darkness to shine light into my heart.

I will be forever grateful for the courage and compassion that girl showed to me that morning. And I will be forever grateful to God for His salvation and His faithfulness to carry me through times of trouble.

I can take heart - He has overcome.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Happy Birthday Amanda!





Tomorrow is my little sister's birthday. I am overwhelmed with gratitude that God gave me such an amazing sister to walk through life with. She is wise beyond her years. She thinks deeply on things and everything she believes is firmly rooted in the gospel of Jesus. She sacrificially loves Jesus and the church. She has spent her entire adult life and even her teenage years not only pursuing Christ, but passionately sharing Him with others. (This includes spending a year in Kazakhstan sharing the gospel. My guess is no one reading this even knows where Kazakhstan is on a map!) She is the funniest person I know. She never fails to make me laugh. She is my best friend. She is my hero. Even though she is younger than I am, I want to be like her when I grow up. I want my daughter to be like her when she grows up. I want my son to marry a woman like her when he grows up.   

Over the last 6 months, Amanda has daily loved me and walked with me through my grief - no small feat considering the grief she was herself going through. She and her AMAZING husband Jeff come over every week (without fail - no mater what else is going on in their lives) to spend time with me and play with the kids. Amanda watches the kids so I can go to meetings or just have a break. She has been there when I need to cry and kept me laughing when I wondered if I would ever be happy again. There are no words to describe my love for her and my gratitude that God gave me such an amazing sister.  

Amanda, you have made the world a more joyful place during the last 28 years. You bring God glory in the manner with which you live your life. I am blessed to get to walk through life with you. Happy Birthday Sister! I love you! May the Lord grant you the best year yet!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

6 Months

6 months
or
26 weeks
or 
184 days...

Today is the 6 month anniversary of my husband's passing. It feels surreal. On one hand, it feels like he was just here, like it's only been a few days. On the other hand, it feels like it has been years, almost like him being here was just a dream.  

In the last 6 months, our daughter turned one. She said her first word ("daddy"), then decided she wouldn't speak again for almost 2 months, then slowly began to speak again. She took her first steps. She got her first busted lip. Our son took swimming lessons for the first time. He started playing soccer. He has learned his letters and is (trying) to learn to write. He took his first trip to the emergency room. He stopped wearing diapers. He learned about the finality of death. The kids played in the ocean for the first time. I've learned how to run our home alone. (Well, for the most part. I still refuse to mow the lawn. Our neighbors may hate me. They can get over it.)

All of these things were supposed to happen with Barry here. Some of these things were heartbreaking to do alone. Some of these things were confusing and comical to do alone. (Side note: Single moms + potty-training little boys = crazy, funny, horrifying moments!) God chose a different plan for our family and we are learning to trust Him and praise Him in the difficult moments.  

We sang "Great is Thy Faithfulness" at church this morning. It was so fitting and exactly what I needed to be reminded of. God has been faithful since the beginning of time. He has been faithful since the day I was born. And He has been faithful for the last 6 months/26 weeks/184 days. He will continue to be faithful - no matter what else may come.

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father; 
There is no shadow of turning with Thee; 
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not; 
As Thou hast been, Thou forever will be. 

Great is Thy faithfulness! 
Great is Thy faithfulness! 
Morning by morning new mercies I see. 
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided; 
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me! 

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Placemats



I love to set the table. I like pretty table linens. I like colorful dishes. I hate paper plates and plastic ware. I think plastic cups are gross. If we get take out or fast food, I unwrap everything and put it on real plates to eat it - even if it's a burger and fires. I'm weird. I'm okay with that.

I have found that there are some benefits to my weird hang-ups. When William started eating solid foods in a highchair, I decided that the highchair tray was boring and needed some visual "help." So I created placemats for William's highchair. The placemats taught him colors, animals and how to spell his name. I created a placemat with pictures of him and his daddy for when my husband was out of town. What I discovered was that the placemats were actually very helpful in teaching William basic concepts and in giving us things to talk about during dinner.  

After Barry died, I realized William needed to talk about Barry, but often didn't know what to say or how to verbalize his feelings. I noticed that if he saw pictures of Barry, he would instantly smile and go into long stories about what was happening in the pictures. So, I created "daddy" placemats for the kids. Each placemat is covered with pictures of Barry and William or Layla. And each placemat has Scripture on it for us to read at each meal to remind us of God's goodness and comfort us when we miss daddy. It's a very simple thing that has been helpful in our grieving process.

If you would like to make your own placemats, here are some tips:
*Construction paper works well for most placemats, but if you are making special placemats that you would like to keep for years, use poster board.  Poster board also works better if you will be gluing photos onto it.
*I take all of my placemats to Mardels for laminating.  It costs 25 cents per foot.  For our "daddy" placemats, I went to Staples to have them laminated instead.  At Staples, they use the thick lamination film so it is much sturdier (aka, more costly at $2 a foot!).
*Always make your placemats 2 sided!  
*I always write a verse from the Bible on each side of my placemats.  It gives me something to read to them at each meal to help us think on Jesus.  
*You can make placemats for highchairs!  Just trace the tray onto a piece of poster board and cut out.  Make sure to make it a few centimeters smaller than the actual tray so that it will fit inside the tray nicely.  

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Promises of God

Six years ago in August, the Lord began a very significant work in my life. It was a work that no one could see. A work that I did not know was occurring. A work that seemed so simple. But it would be a work that would be absolutely foundational for my soul six years later.

God began taking me through a study of His promises. And He did it in an interesting way. I didn't hear a sermon series, read a book or attend a women's bible study. I began teaching a year long curriculum to a group of elementary-aged kids. Yes, you read that correctly - God used a children's bible study to deeply impact my walk with Him and my faith.  

Every weekend, for a year, I would teach a group of kids about the promises that God makes in the Bible. We learned about God's promise of salvation, of provision, of protection, of eternal life. We learned about the promise God made in Genesis 3 to send a rescuer, a savior and His faithfulness to fulfill His promise by sending Jesus. And we learned about some of God's more difficult promises of discipline and to be with us when suffering comes (because it will...).  

I am a firm believer that if you are teaching children well, you will yourself be learning as you teach. Those who say they are not growing or learning while they teach children the Bible are doing something very wrong. But I did not expect teaching these kids about the promises of God to be so foundational for my own walk with Him. I knew these stories. I knew these promises. I knew these verses. But in spending an entire year focused on them and teaching them to others, they became very deeply ingrained in my heart.  

God was doing a very special, very generous work in all of this. What I did not know six years ago was that God teaching me these promises because they would be the rock that I stood on when my world came crashing down. They would be the light in the darkest moment of my life. 

When tragedy strikes, the mind and heart do not recall complex, vague ideas. The heart does not find comfort in something it does not truly believe. We recall and find comfort in the simple truths that are so ingrained in our souls that no amount of panic or grief can cover them. As I sat in my husband's hospital room, not knowing if he would live through the night, the words that ran through my head were: "The Lord our God is with you, He is mighty to save."  Zephaniah 3:17. And as I began the long journey of healing and learning to live life without him after his death, the words that run through my head are: "It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect." 2 Samuel 22:33 and "You turned my wailing into dancing, you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy." Psalm 30:11. All of these were verses that God pressed upon my heart as I studied and taught His promises.  

Next weekend, I will once again be teaching the promises of God to a group of elementary-aged kids. The curriculum will be slightly different, but the truths will be the same. Thank you God for revealing these beautiful promises to my heart six years ago. Thank you for using them to strengthen, comfort and carry me through the last year. Thank you that I will get to once again sit in them for another year, with another group of kids. May they become a foundation of truth and hope for these kids that leads them to salvation and helps them stand during the hard times.  

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Greatest Week of the Year

Today officially begins the greatest week of the year in the Keldie house. The week we look forward to all year long. The week that makes every other week seem lame and uneventful. The week that reminds us of God's goodness, generosity, power and awesomeness.  

Do you know why this week is so special? No, we won't celebrate any birthdays this week. It's obviously not Christmas (it will be 100+ degrees all week). We're not going on vacation.  

IT'S SHARK WEEK!!!!!!

Seven wonderful days on the Discovery Channel devoted to educating us about sharks.

So, you know where we will be this week - sitting in front of the television, being amazed, scared and grossed out by my husband's favorite animal. He may be gone, but this tradition will never die...

And for your viewing pleasure - pictures of Barry and William watching Shark Week last year. I know what you're thinking: that kid needs a haircut. What were we thinking?!? 



Happy Shark Week!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Meet Mallory



This is my sweet friend Mallory. I have know Mal for almost 7 years. We met by chance when she and her husband joined our small group. Barry and I instantly connected with them and we have some pretty strange stories from the first year we knew them. They later helped us plant Providence Church. Most people don't know this, but the reason we planted Providence in the neighborhood we did had a lot to do with Mallory and her husband.  

Mallory is a friend that has taught me what loyalty and grace look like played out in real life. She has one of the sweetest, purest hearts of anyone I know. And she is one of those friends that you could go a year without seeing and when you reconnect, it's like you just saw her yesterday. Mallory has always been one of those people I dearly loved and deeply trusted. But in the last 7 months, she has outdone herself.

The night Barry went into the hospital is a blur for me. I don't remember a ton. But I do remember calling Mallory around 5pm, sobbing, telling her I needed to bring her my kids so I could go to  the hospital. (Mal lives down the street from me.) I didn't tell her what was going on, I didn't even tell her who was hurt. I made absolutely no sense on the phone. When I pulled up to her house a few minutes later, Mallory was waiting on the curb. She took my kids without asking any questions. I asked her to watch my kids for a couple of hours. She ended up watching them for three days. She fed them, clothed them, and took William to school without any help or information from me. She stepped in and cared for my children for me while my world fell apart. And in the midst of caring for four children, all three-years-old and younger, she was at the hospital to hug me just minutes after Barry passed away.  

In the days, weeks and months after losing Barry, Mallory ministered to me in very tangible and consistent ways. She prayed for me constantly. She called and emailed me to let me know she cared and didn't stop, even when I didn't answer or respond. She has been someone who I could call or text in the middle of the night to say I was struggling and she wouldn't ask for details or information, she would just grieve with me. She would cry with me. She faithfully watched my kids for me each week for 4 months so I could go to counseling. She cooks me meals. She brought me flowers on Mother's Day. She made a piece of art with the verse that I have clung to during this process on it for my birthday. Her husband has come over to help with home repairs. Mallory has been a true friend and a safe place for me to grieve.  

My goal in telling you this is not to make much of Mallory. Although she is awesome. My goal in telling you this is to show you some of the many ways that God has carried me through this tragedy. He has used my sweet friend to remind me that He will meet my needs and to show me that I am not alone.  

When I post things on this blog, I think of two audiences: 1.those who are grieving and 2. those who are, or one day will be, walking with someone who is grieving. If you fall into group number 2, I hope that you will remember Mallory's example and be a blessing for those who are hurting.  

Friday, July 23, 2010

Hebrews 12

I have been reading through the book of Hebrews for about a month now. I love this book. I love how much it connects back to the Old Testament. I love how rich and deep each sentence is. I love how it so blatantly shows me that Jesus is best - better than angels, better than Moses, better than everything. He is best. It brings such comfort to my soul.

Early this week, I started working through chapter 12 and verse 12 caught my attention. "Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed."

Words like "drooping", "weak" and "lame" are words I connected with. They describe my soul right now. And the word "healed" caused my heart to ache. I so desperately want healing. So I spent some time contemplating verse 12. But while my attention was captured by this verse, my heart and mind just could not wrap around its meaning. It was one of those moments where I understood all the words, but my spirit was wrestling to understand its deeper meaning.

To be honest, this led me to a sad place. In the past, when I wrestled with Scripture, I would go to Barry. We would read it together and talk about it. He would help me understand its meaning. I miss those times. I miss his wisdom. I miss him. Once again I found myself having to figure out another thing on my own.

I went into the study and started pulling commentaries off the shelves. While I did not have my beloved to help me, I did have the words of John Calvin and John Owen, two brilliant theologians, to help.

My study led me to this:
To understand verse 12, you have to go back to verses 3 and 4. "Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood."

What helps me lift my drooping hands, strengthen my weak knees and not grow fainthearted is simple - I must consider Jesus. I must think on him and not myself. While I may have suffered, I have not suffered to the point of shedding blood. What keeps me going, what pushes me forward is thinking on him.

And I must "make straight paths" for my feet. I must do what is right, what is righteous. I must pursue holiness. In pursuing holiness, I protect myself from becoming lame - from becoming unable to walk in the land of the living because of sin. I must choose straight paths of righteousness, not the crooked path of sin.

In considering Jesus and pursuing righteousness I will be healed. Unfortunately, this is not a short process. It will not happen over-night. It will be a life long battle, but I know that in the end, there will be healing. As long as I know healing is coming, I can keep fighting.

"The constant consideration of Christ in his sufferings is the best means to keep up faith unto its due exercise in all times of trial." John Owen

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Cooking

Time for a confession: I have not cooked a meal since Barry died. Yes, you read that correctly. I have not cooked a meal in almost 5 months. I know there are lots of people in the world who do not cook. I am not one of them. I love to cook. My mom started teaching me how to cook in elementary school. But for the past 5 months, I simply have had no desire to cook.

Now, there are some things you should know. When Barry passed away, the lovely women of Providence Church set up a meal schedule for me. Someone brought a meal to me everyday for the month of March. In April, I got 3 meals a week. In May, two meals. And during the months of June and July, I have gotten one meal a week. And these ladies are generous. Often times, the meals I receive can feed us for several days. (When you're only feeding one adult and 2 small kids, food can go a long way.) My sister and her husband also come over once a week to have dinner with the kids and I and they usually brig a meal with them. So, there has been no shortage of food in the Keldie house.

But, to be honest, cooking has also been a sad reminder of what I have lost. Everything I cooked was centered around Barry. The kids would be happy eating peanut butter sandwiches, chicken nuggets and fruit everyday. It is also strange to cook a meal for just me, when I have never, ever done that. In college, I cooked for roommates. I married Barry less than a month after graduating. So, I've always cooked for two or more. Cooking for one just sucks. So, I haven't had the motivation or desire to cook.

Sunday night, I decided it was time to cook again. I would love to say that I made a creative dinner for my kids and I, but that would be a lie. I waited until they went to bed to cook - I've learned to take things one step at a time for now. Juggling 2 small kids while cooking dinner at the end of a long day will be something I accomplish next week (or next month). I made my go-to meal of spaghetti and meat sauce. Nothing tricky or fancy for the first meal. I did use fresh herbs from my garden though!  

Dinner was decent. It did take a lot longer to make than it used to - I guess it will come more quickly with practice. But for me, I made one more small step on my journey of learning how to live life again. And it felt good. Now, if only someone would come and clean my kitchen...

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Making Video Memories

In the weeks and months after losing Barry, my three-year-old son William would often talk about his daddy. He would tell stories of things we had done as a family. He would tell me all the different things he liked to do with his daddy. He would tell me things that Barry had said to him. William's memories were painful to listen to. I so desperately wanted William to keep these memories in his heart and struggled with a great fear and sadness that he might forget them. And then I had an idea...

I purchased a Flip Video camera and kept it with me where ever we went. When William would randomly start talking about his daddy, I would record what he said. I wanted William to be able to tell himself memories of his daddy. I know he will forget a lot of the memories he now has. And, hopefully, I will be around for a long time to tell him about his daddy and all the fun things we did together. But I also wanted him to hear memories form his own perspective.  

Since William is only three, most of his videos are about 5-10 minutes. He loves to make them. For some reason, he seems to talk about his daddy most at dinner time, so many of our videos are made right at the table. One of my favorite videos is of William telling me a story about Barry with a mouth full of food - it's going to be great to show him when he's older and easily embarrassed...

For those that are curious, this is one of William's non-food-chewing videos about his daddy.  

video

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The 4th of July

A few weeks after Barry died, my mom asked me what holidays/occasions coming up in the next year I expected to be especially difficult. One of those holidays was the 4th of July. I have two very vivid, very sweet memories of celebrating that day with Barry.

On July 4, 2003, we were in Washington D.C. on a youth mission trip.  I loved that trip - in fact, it was one of my favorite trips we ever took. That specific group of kids and the leaders that went with us are very dear to my heart. We worked in a very rough, inner-city D.C. neighborhood cleaning a school's grounds and facilitating a VBS for some the poorest kids in one of the most violent neighborhoods in America. The night of July 4th, we sat out in the back of an old colonial house we were staying in and watched an amazing fireworks show. I don't know exactly what made it so special - whether is was the emotion of the work we were doing or the company of great friends and youth, but I can close my eyes and see sitting on that porch with Barry. It was a simple, sweet moment in time that I will forever cherish.

On July 4, 2008, we celebrated the holiday at a friends house. I don't remember much about the night - what we did or who was there. What I do remember is that William was about 18-months-old. We were pretty certain he would be afraid of the fireworks, but we wanted to try watching them anyways. Barry laid on his back in the grass and William laid on top of him, looking up at the sky. Every time a firework went off, Barry would say "BOOM!" and William would echo his "BOOM" and giggle. This went on for more than 20 minutes. It was one of those moments in time you treasure as a parent, watching your child experience something new and enjoy it immensely with their daddy.

This year, I dreaded the 4th of July. I missed Barry. I knew watching fireworks would never be the same. But, just like each day since he has died, God has been so generous and so faithful to carry me through the hard moments. This year, we went to some relatives' house to eat and set off our own fireworks (and just so you know, the owner of the house is also a fire chief at a fire department here in the metroplex - safety first!). It was a very sweet evening, celebrating with people who have been unbelievably supportive over the last 4 months. William and Layla spent hours wandering around the property, riding the golf cart and scooters and William even set off his first firework and had a blast playing with sparklers. Layla spent a good hour just cuddling in my lap  - something she usually never slows down enough to do.  

All in all, it was a great night. I missed Barry. I wish he could have seen William stand on a huge pile of dirt and sing and dance for the "audience" sitting around. I wish I could have held his hand while the fireworks went off, like I did in D.C. But instead, I had the pleasure of watching his son enjoy the evening, noticing that he is EXACTLY like his daddy. And I had the pleasure of holding his daughter, thankful for the gift of my kids and the legacy that God gave us in them.  

Monday, June 21, 2010

A New Father's Day Perspective

This past Sunday was our first Father's Day without Barry.  To be honest, I had been in denial about it's approach and was caught off guard Saturday night when I realized Father's Day was the next day. Needless to say, I spent most of Saturday night grieving.  

I grieved for my husband.  I grieved for what no longer was.  I grieved for my children.  Barry had always had a hard time with Father's Day. Not having a dad made it a rough day for him.  When William was born, it was so much fun to see how a day that had once been so painful became a day of celebrating the precious gift and responsibility God had given him.  One of his greatest desires was to give William and Layla a life and a relationship with their daddy that he never had. So, in facing our first Father's Day without him and the realization that Father's Day would always be hard for the kids was so painful.  I felt overwhelmed with sadness and loss.

On Sunday afternoon, I received an email from a woman I did not know.  She told me how Barry had impacted her life.  And then she said something that, in my grief, had not yet occurred to me.  She said that while we were celebrating our first Father's Day without him, he was celebrating his first Father's Day with his Father.  In my grief, I had been so focused on our pain, that I had forgotten about the beautiful gift Barry had been given.  Not only is he before the Lord, with no more pain and sorrow, but he is in the presence of his daddy - his real daddy.  For that, I am overcome with gratitude.

Psalm 68:5 tells us that God is "father to the fatherless."  He was always Barry's father.  Now Barry has the joy of seeing his father face to face.  And God is father to William and Layla.  And while they can no longer see their earthly daddy and cannot yet see their heavenly father, they are not without a dad.  They have 2.  One that loved them fiercely while here on earth, and one that loves them perfectly from heaven.  

Saturday, June 12, 2010

"My Daddy's Dead"

I don't know how it feels for you to read those words. I'm guessing it stings a little. No one wants to think about a child losing their father. It hurts even more to hear them come out of the mouth of my sweet 3-year-old each and every day.

William is a very verbal child. I am constantly amazed at the words he uses and how well he communicates. He is his father's child. It is a source of joy for me most of the time. But when he communicates the truth of our new reality, that daddy is dead, it grieves my soul. And during the last 3 months, this is a phrase that I have heard at least a dozen times a day.

William is just trying to process what has happened to our family and communicate his emotions about it. It is a very healthy process for anyone going through grief. It helps me gauge his understanding of Barry's death. It gives me opportunities to talk about Barry with him and seal memories of him in William's heart. It opens the door for us to talk about deep spiritual issues like death, sin, the death of Jesus on the cross, the resurrection, and eternal life. It causes us to stop and pray, asking God to "heal our hearts" and "make our hearts happy again." It helps me to remember the promises of God and trust in His faithfulness during hard times.

But it can also make for very awkward situations. William doesn't just say, "My daddy's dead," to me. He says it to his teachers at school and church. He says it to his friends. He says it to the waitress at the restaurant. He says it to the doctor. I never know when and where it is going to come out of his sweet little mouth.

I am thankful for those who have not only endured these awkward situations with me, but have engaged William with compassion and truth. His teacher at school spent two months talking with him about his daddy each day during nap time - loving him and letting him express his feelings in a safe environment. My heart will forever be grateful to her for the way she served God and our family in her actions. The preschool minister at our church made sure that all of his teachers knew what was going on and encouraged them to engage William with the truth of the Scriptures when he expressed his sadness at Barry's death. And there are those who simply have no words when William expresses, "my daddy's dead," but their eyes fill with tears and he knows that he is not alone in his grief.

My purpose in sharing this with you is this: we live in a fallen world. Because of that, there are so many children who are experiencing grief and tragedy. It is difficult to enter into a child's pain. It hurts. It makes us afraid. It causes us to think about the "what ifs" in our own lives. And often, we just don't know what to say or what to do. So we avoid. But when a child verbalizes his pain and the truth of his reality, it really is a beautiful thing. It is them processing their grief and it helps them to heal. So enter into the pain with them. They are just looking for some safety in a scary time.

If you are a parent who is walking through tragedy with your child, please know that you don't walk alone. Just like our children need us to walk with them and help them process their grief, you have a heavenly Father who also walks with you. He knows the pain and tears that your child's words can bring. He knows how deeply you desire to take away the pain and the temptation to run from it. He will not only walk through the pain with you, but He will carry you when you just can't take another step. And He will deliver you and your child from the hurt and tears.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Loving, Protecting and Providing for Your Loved Ones Even in Death - Funeral Arrangements

This is the second in a series of posts about how you can help your loved ones handle the "business side" of death, should the unfortunate occur.


It is amazing how time seems to stand still in the middle of a tragedy.  When Barry passed away, I stayed in his hospital room while the doctor ran some tests to see if Barry's organs could be harvested.  My strong, sweet daddy went in to the waiting room to tell our friends and family that Barry had died.  After about 45 minutes, I decided it was time to "face the crowd" and leave Barry's room.  As I stepped out of the room, our ICU nurse stopped me and told me she needed to know what funeral home we would be using.  What?  WHAT!?!

He had been gone less than an hour.  Did we really have to have that conversation right then?

Please understand, the nurse was amazing.  She was extremely helpful over the next 3 hours, compassionate and patient.  She wasn't trying to rush me.  She was just doing her job.  What I would come to learn is that when someone dies, TONS of decisions have to be made within the first 24 hours.  Those decisions are hard to make anyways, but when you add grief and shock to the process, you really just want to run away and hide.  But that's not an option..

So, here are some things that are helpful to discuss before tragedy comes.

Funeral Homes
The hospital will immediately need to know what funeral home you would like to use.  They contact the funeral home for you and coordinate the transfer of the body from the hospital to the home.  

Unless you have lived in one city for a long amount of time or have a funeral home that your family uses when a member of the family passes away, this decision will be a hard one.  Most people don't go shopping for a funeral home.  And I am not suggesting you do so either.  But a few things might help the process.

If you are participating in organ or tissue donation, the coordinator might be able to help you with some suggestions.  Our coordinator provided a list of funeral homes in the area that provided services at a discount rate to the families of donators.  From that list, she told us of the homes that she had worked with that provided excellent service in the past.  

The hospital will also provide a list of funeral homes to you that are near by.  I would suggest doing the following:
If a minister is at the hospital with you, ask them what funeral homes the church has worked with in the past and if they have any recommendations.  

Take the list the hospital provides and pick 3-5 homes.  Have someone who is at the hospital with you call each funeral home and ask them for their basic pricing for services.  Have that person write down the prices next to the name of the funeral home for you to review and pick from.  (You will be amazed at how varied pricing can be for basic services.  Remember - this is a business and unfortunately, some funeral homes take advantage of grief to make a higher profit.)

Once you have picked a funeral home, let the nurse know which home you would like to use and they will take care of coordinating the transfer of the body.  Remember to write down the contact information of the home, because you will need it within the next 24 hours.

The day after your loved one has passed away, you will need to go to the funeral home.  I would suggest calling them to set an appointment so that you don't have to wait once you get there.  At the funeral home, you will then need to make decisions on how you want the body handled.  The funeral home can explain all the processes to you and answer questions, but the main decision that has to be made next is if you want a burial or cremation.  This is a very personal decision that each family needs to make for themselves.  It is extremely helpful to make your wishes known before hand so that your loved ones don't have to carry the weight of this decision alone.  

Cremation
To be honest, cremation requires the least amount of decisions to be made.  Once you have decided to cremate, the only other decisions you need to make are what to do with the ashes after the cremation.  You will need to pick a box/urn for the ashes.  These can range in price and style.  Also, you will need to decide what you would like to do with the ashes.  Some people choose to have the ashes taken to a cemetery.  Some people choose to keep the ashes at home.  Some people choose to scatter the ashes at a place that has significance to the family and the deceased.  

When you cremate, funeral arrangements are relatively simple.  Instead of a casket at the front of the room, some families choose to have pictures of the deceased placed at the front of the room with flowers.  You can also choose to have the ashes at the front of the room.

Finally, cremation can be significantly less expensive than a burial.  

Burial
When you choose to bury the deceased, several decisions have to be made.  The funeral home can walk you though this process step-by-step.  You will need to decide what type of casket you would like.  Caskets vary greatly in price.  It can be helpful for the family if they know how simple or elaborate you want your casket to be.  The family will have to decide what to dress the deceased in.  If there is something specific you would like, let your loved ones know.  

The major decision that has to be made is what cemetery you want to be buried in.  If members of your family are buried in a specific cemetery and you would also like to be buried there, you need to let your loved ones know.  Once the cemetery is chosen, they can help you pick a plot, based on what is available.  Some families have also already purchased plots to use when the time comes.  Then, you will need to chose a headstone.  This is another thing that varies greatly in price and style.  If you have a specific wish, it is helpful to let your loved ones know before hand.  

When you chose a burial, funeral arrangements are slightly more complex.  Do you want to have a viewing at the funeral home before the service?  Do you want an open or closed casket for the funeral?  Some families chose to have the casket open before and after the service so that people can see the deceased one last time, and close the casket during the service.  

Once the funeral is completed, the funeral home then takes the body in the casket to the cemetery where a graveside service is usually held.  

A burial can be significantly more expensive than a cremation.

Like I previously stated, whether to bury or cremate a loved one is an extremely personal decision.  There is no right or wrong decision.  I personally believe it is best to let the deceased make that decision for themsleves, but that requires that they have a conversation with their loved ones prior to death to let them know what they desire.  The wishes and beliefs of the family should be taken into consideration.  

If you don't have a strong opinion on the matter, I would suggest thinking about the following.  When you bury someone, there is a place that friends and family can go to "visit" the deceased.  For some people, this can be helpful and a part of the grieving process.  For others, this can be extremely painful.  Those left behind may feel an obligation to visit or keep flowers at the graveside.  They may feel guilty for not visiting often or moving away.  Each family will be different.  

The last thing I will say about making this decision prior to your passing is this: this is a decision that members of the family and loved ones will have different opinions about.  Some people also have very strong opinions about this topic.  To protect your spouse or loved ones from the pressure of upsetting others during an already tragic time, make this decision for yourself and make your wishes known.  Then, those left behind won't have to deal with fighting and upset feelings of others in the midst of grieving.