I went to a concert last night. I didn’t have the money to get in the doors, but I still went. I wanted to be there, and I knew I needed to be there. Music is one of a few safe places in my life right now. There was an individual, my friend Dan (from DCA Events) who knew a bit of my story, and invited me in. I didn’t have the money, and he knew it. He said words that probably set the tone for the entire evening. He said this, “It’s not about a concert. It’s about Jesus.” I already had tears streaming down my face at this point, and he invited me into the concert and (without a seat at the time) I just stood at the back. I watched, and I cried. Concerts are also something my daughter and I very much enjoyed going to before she died last year. So, the emotions surrounding that also were fighting for their place. I think I cried more last night than I have, ever, in any concert. It was healing, but it also hurt.
This is a tour called Worship In The Round, and featured Building 429, Josh Wilson, and Chris August. I’ve seen Chris August a couple of times before, but never the others. There was also a guy, Adam Weber, who I’d later learn was the pastor of a church with multiple campuses out of state.
Something happened there though. In my heart. Sadly, I didn’t magically find all this hope that has seemingly gone on an extended vacation. But, what I did find was a safe place. Music is still that. I heard words and messages of hope. Of love. Of faith. Of Jesus. I heard all those things. The only dilemma I have right now, is finding the strength to keep holding onto those messages. I need them to be more than great words that exist in the here and now, but vanish like a vapor. At an intermission of sorts, I saw a friend from church. When she saw me, she made her way over to me, and she gave me a hug, and simply held me as I cried. And cried. That was kind, and so needed. I didn’t know how much it was needed until I just sat there in tears.
What happened after the show, more than any moment during the concert itself, is what sparked something in my heart. The guys were all out signing autographs. I took the time to make my way to each one, including the dude I came to realize was a pastor. The show itself was incredibly impactful, but what happened after became personal.
You see, I’ll start with him. Adam Weber. I actually ran into him before the show, or before I went in. In passing, he asked if I was okay. I didn’t lie. I told him I wasn’t and he said something about all having days like that. I had no idea who he was at that point, just some dude passing in the hallway. But, from the stage, he was talking about prayer. More than that, about how prayer was not some foreign language we have yet to learn. Instead, it’s carrying on a conversation with God, as if He is a friend sitting next to you. He shared a few thoughts, and I listened to every single one. My heart was open to the hope in his words. So, afterwards, I took a few moments and I talked to him. In a brief nutshell, I shared where I was with my daughter having died, with hopelessness in ways, and with my faith. Had I known he was a pastor, I am not sure I’d have said all that. But, it didn’t matter. I did. He wasn’t condescending, but his words were filled with love. He asked if I had told God all those things. More than that, he thanked me for sharing the things I did with him. He valued our conversation, and that was special.
Next, I had the opportunity to talk to Chris August. First, I showed him a silly picture of him and my son from 2011. He signed his forehead, and it was a fun, candy filled memory. (My son had every visible part of him – his face, neck, and his arms signed that evening.) He mentioned that he doesn’t always remember everything from all his shows, but that one still sticks in his memory banks. (It might or might not have anything to do with the fact that Timehop reminds me of these things, and so I share with him each year. haha) But, I was able to just be real. I showed him a picture of my sweet little girl, and shared the pain attached to her death. I talked to him briefly about my life, and what led me to where I was and some of the why. He took the time to listen, and to let me know that where I was, was okay. I was able to do something I’ve wanted to do for some time, simply say thank you to him. His heart is for and with people.
Then I had the opportunity as Jason, from Building 429 was about to walk out of the room – to talk to him. I felt bad, cause I knew he was getting ready to leave. But, I asked for a moment of his time. I wanted him to hear my words. Mostly my thanks. I didn’t have anything for him to sign. I told him thank you for doing what he does, and he asked what was going on with me. His fault. He took the time, and he asked. haha. So, there were the tears from the whole evening. Back again like a faithful friend. He asked if he could give me a hug, and briefly held me as I just cried. Poor guy. That was not my intention, but nor could it be prevented in that moment. I explained some of the why behind the pain, and where my hope was, or wasn’t. And, my faith too. It was a brief, but very transparent and I guess pretty vulnerable conversation. He asked about what support I had, and then he asked if he could pray with me right then. That was powerful, and the tears refused to not overflow. The prayer itself was powerful, sure, but that he simply took the time. He reminded me that I was not alone. He asked my name, and then shared that they’d pray for me on this tour. Tears aplenty.
After more of the crowd vanished, I saw the opportunity to also speak with Josh Wilson. For an odd change of pace, I was somewhat speechless. It was a fight with those tears. They wanted to be known too. All I could manage to say was thank you, for his music and for sharing his story. It wasn’t a star struck sort of speechless either. There were tears. It was an overwhelming feeling, hard to put into words, culminating from the entire evening. I was feeling some sort of stirring. Something in my heart. There were, again, tears that refused to not make their presence known. I did manage to share some of my struggles with him, even feelings not of suicide, but of wishing that I was already in Heaven. And, like the others, he listened. Mostly, he reminded me that it’s okay. Where I am right now, it’s okay. The pain I have, it’s okay. If my words forgot their filters, he wasn’t offended, and heard my heart, and pain. And, he also reminded me that God has broad shoulders, and can take it too. If I’m mad, it’s okay. If I hurt, if…any of those ifs…to talk to Him about it. I might or might not be at a place that I can do that right now. But, the point all boiled down to the fact that the things I felt, the emotions I had, they were okay. I’m not broken beyond repair, even though it often feels that way. He, again, reminded me that life is precious, and that I am too. That people need me, that I am here for a purpose, that I matter, and also that I’m not alone.
The one constant thing amongst conversation with all of them was this. They were unafraid of my tears and my pain. They didn’t run for the hills, and they didn’t hide. They saw me. It wasn’t a ton of time, but they took the time to just be with me in those moments. My seeming lack of faith didn’t make them look at me as less of a person. They were bold, encouraging, and they heard me. I can’t explain what that did in my heart, but it was undeniable. I was no longer alone in a giant crowd of people. They became the hands and feet of Jesus, in human form. They reminded me that, even if I couldn’t see beyond the pain, that it was okay. Ultimately, where I am right now is okay. In different ways, each one of them reminded me that life continues to be worth fighting, worth living, and that even if simply putting one foot in front of the other and continuing to walk was all I could do – that it was enough.
So, folks, that’s where I am right now. You can take a look at yesterday’s post and get a general feel for where I am in general, and why last night’s concert was as impactful as it was. If you pray, I welcome those. If you have hope, I welcome you to hope. Even during the moments I can’t…I ask you to hold onto those things for me cause maybe there will be a time they exist again in my life. Whatever you do, and wherever you are, I welcome you to join me. I know there is strength in community, and I know there is healing and hope also found there. I may not have a good grasp, or none at all, on some of these things right now, but if you do – please don’t let go.
And for any musician apt to play shows or concerts – this, friends, this is why what you matters. This is why a concert is so much more than just good music, or great music in this case. It’s more than entertainment. The simple gestures, hugs, moments in time that you offer or share – those change lives. Those share hope with the hopeless. What you do is life changing for some, life-giving for others, and even life-saving for some. Please know that music is a place where people can feel safe and seek refuge. I am that person. Music is a safe place. Thank you for that gift.
And, to DCA Events, thank you for playing your part in making concerts like these happen. To quote what Dan says of himself and DCA Events, “….As a believer and follower of Christ, it’s what we are called to do. Dca Events is here to bring Jesus to the hurting & lost, our concerts are about promoting positive influence thru music. That positive influence is Jesus.” Dan, and DCA Events, thank you for the mission you have, and for doing it well. Like I mentioned before, this shows me who Jesus is, in human form.
I still have many questions, a lot of pain, and a faith and life with so many questions and concerns – but I am not the same person I walked into the concert as. I don’t know what that means, but I do know that I’m grateful to have had the experience, and for the safe place it provided.
Last night, I had the opportunity to spend time on the oncology floor at our Children’s hospital. If you know my story at all, you know that my daughter died (13 months ago today) from brain cancer. She spent a great deal of time on this very same oncology floor. So, to be admitted with her older brother – it was difficult. When I introduce this paragraph as this being an opportunity, I did so intentionally. I had the chance to feel things that needed feeling.
Some people have ice cold hearts, while others are warm and inviting. And then there are those whose hearts bleed gold. It takes the age old saying that someone has a “heart of gold” to an entirely different level.
If you are not aware, the universal color representing childhood cancer is gold.
Today, I met a man named Ronnie. He started Driven To Make Change. Before a couple of days ago, I hadn’t known very much about Ronnie and his heart that bleeds gold. He is a compassionate person, who – yes, has a heart of gold. His goal and mission in life right now is to raise awareness for pediatric cancer .
He’s driving across 48 states to learn all he can about all the pediatric cancers (139, currently known) and also to raise awareness. His hope is multi faceted. Not only does he have vision to raise funds for fighting cancer and finding a cure – he also seeks to take that deeper and further.
He wants to aid research into the why. Cause. Find out why or how (any environmental or otherwise) these cancers form. It is then that they become preventable.
It sounds like a pipe dream – but, I’ll draw your attention to medical history – so did the cause and/or cure for polio and other similar diseases. Let’s band together and turn this pipe dream into hopeful reality. Don’t tell me it’s not possible.
Why the passion?
I’m glad you’ve asked. My daughter Janet (Praying For Little Janet) was diagnosed with a rare (literally one of a kind) brain tumor at age four. She courageously fought brain cancer for three years, and passed away February 13, 2016. She is my why. My passion. My love. There is a giant hole in my heart that only she could ever fill.
She is not my only why .
There are so many people – so many families whose lives are turned upside down, in an instant – with two (not so) simple words: childhood cancer. To hear the words “your child has cancer” or “your child has a brain tumor” are game changers. They will (and should) change perspective and priorities in a huge way. Life as you know it will NEVER be the same “normal” again. Life will change. Death may happen. And that part so royally sucks.
They are now also my why. Every family who hears those words. I fight for my daughter, and I fight for all the families affected by pediatric cancers of all kinds.
My daughter died. My hope and prayer is that no other family, ever, has to endure this painful kind of journey.
Pipe dream? Not forever. WE have the power to change things. It will not happen overnight. But, it WILL happen. The key is, we must advocate for our children. They deserve so much more than the 3.8% of federal funding for pediatric cancer research currently alloted.
Please join me, Ronnie, and all those with hearts that bleed gold, in raising awareness and funds for pediatric cancer research (not only for a cure – but also to be able to pinpoint cause, and thus prevent the cancer) and share hope with the world.
Have you ever been to a music concert that saves lives and rescues people? I have. Two nights ago.
I had an opportunity that had my stomach in knots. A concert. No big deal, right?! In my case, not right. Let me explain…
My daughter passed away in February after a three year battle with brain cancer. During the first year of her fight – on a cool and crisp sunny October afternoon, Matt Vollmar (Lead singer of The Great Romance -TGR) came to visit Janet during one of her many inpatient stays at the hospital. He sang an incredibly meaningful song, Bigger Than The Odds. The song speaks of A God, who is bigger than the odds. Janet fell in love with that song, the artist who sang it, and the band that plays it. She’d take much pride in requesting and hearing it played on the radio. Every time TGR was in concert anywhere within a reasonable driving distance, we made it a point to be there. It would be an understatement to say they meant a ton to us.
Case in point, Matt Vollmar was one of a small handful personally asked to sing at Janet’s Celebration of Life (funeral) service. He sang an couple of her favorite songs, fitting for the occasion.
This concert was the first concert I’d been to since she passed away. If you knew much about me, you’d know I’ve been to several concerts in recent years – at least 95+% of them, with my daughter in attendance. She loved music. Music has such a message, and even as a young kid, she “got” it.
I had virtually no idea how hard, yet how impactful this concert would become.
I walked in as the first group, For His Glory, was being introduced, and began to share about a cause that they support – a cause near and dear to their hearts. They seek to offer hope, healing, and practical help to people and ministries worldwide. In this instance, they spoke passionately about human trafficking, and connecting them with true and lasting, sustainable hope. The kind of hope that rebuilds lives, and communities. They have a global market, where they sell goods made by these rescued girls, to help them continue with sustainable income. I saw some of these beautiful items – baby bibs, any weather scarves, winter scarves, greeting cards, wooden sculptures, jewelry, etc. Incredible talent.
Their mission is one near and dear to my heart as well. I was astounded to hear their heart and words in support of this cause.
As they played, their songs spoke to my heart. I listened, and I cried. It simply couldn’t be helped. They were beautiful tears – not marked with sadness. They were my heart connecting with what felt like the very heart of God. I knew, in those moments, that I had to connect with these people. That is an indoor process at the moment, but their mission is also my mission. I’ll look forward to updating again as friendships form, and differences are made in our world.
At the completion of their set, it was time for The Great Romance to take the stage. I didn’t know what to expect, emotion wise, but I didn’t have the slightest clue the difficulty level either.
Their first song was a light hearted (one of a few) favorite of Janet’s. I had tears, but I was okay. The next song grabbed my heart, and was one Janet loved, got the meaning of, and was also sang at her Celebration of Life. Disappear. The basis of this song is asking “if I were to disappear, would there be footprints on the floor” – asking if the person wasn’t there any longer, would they leave a footprint on this world – a legacy of something more. At seven years old, my daughter knew she was doing, but she KNEW she would leave a legacy of love. She was and still is right. So yes, that song got me. A few other songs hit a spot, but nothing came close to the deluge of emotions that poured out of my eyes in the form of tears. I lost it. Not on a horrible way, but the tears freely streamed down my face, giant and very real crocodile tears. They were healing while heartbreaking, simultaneously. I was just enveloped with God’s love, but sported a shattered heart – knowing how much that song meant to Janet, and wishing I could watch her beautiful bald self, dancing to it time and time again. It hurts to not have her here – but my God – I wouldn’t trade having such beautiful and love filled memories of a life – seven years of a life – well lived.
My daughter truly LOVED more in her seven years, than many will live in an entire lifetime – one that spans into adulthood, and old age. She was robbed of so much, but it NEVER put a damper on her smile. When I grow up, I wanna be just like her! Ha!
To everyone who continues to connect with Janet’s story, and our ongoing journey, I want to thank you for the continued thoughts and prayers. Please and thank you for them continuing!
To anyone who may read this – this is going to be a letter I write to my 7 heart old daughter Janet. She passed away three day before Valentine’s Day, 2016, after a three year fight with brain cancer. I have no idea how long this will be, but I have so much on my mind. You don’t have to read it – but do please feel free. I am not going to edit or even change grammar or spelling errors because, frankly, I don’t want to. I’m writing on/from my cell phone, and so God knows (and so do several of you) that I’m probably going to say any number of things that might not compute! I love you all. Thank you for being here. And for all you love, support, thoughts and prayers!
Oh, precious Janet! I love you so much, sweet girl. I will always and forever #RememberTheLove. Like I told you before you took your final breath this side of Heaven, we do miss you like crazy – like there’s no tomorrow! But, just like I followed that up with this then, I will now say that we are okay. The reason we’re okay is because we have each other. We still have you here with us, just only in our hearts.
I’m not going to lie – sweetheart. This has been the hardest I’ve ever felt. Some days are so much harder than others. You know what I’m learning? That’s just the way it is. I do know this, though. If you were able to, you’d give me a gigantic squeezy hug. You did those the best. You’d tell me it’s okay, and you’d wipe away my tears. I know this. Sorry. I’m just missing you.
I’ve learned so much about myself, other people, life, and even God. I think you’d be proud. I hope so, at least. God knows I’m also not perfect. But I know you’d remind me how much you love me and no matter what, that wouldn’t change. I said that to you all the time – and you picked up on or, and knew when to say it to me.
I’m so so sorry we couldn’t do more to save you. I know it’s not my fault. But I still wish. So much. I just feel so broken. My heart hurts so much sometimes. I hate this pain, and how much it hurts. But them I remember that it hurts so bad because we shared so much love. The love you shared with me will forever be in my heart.
I’ve been listening to a lot of music. I know how much music meant to you. It makes me smile.
Guess what else? If you were sitting beside me, I know we’d talk about this. I’m learning a lot right now, especially about God, and my faith. Also about love, and compassion – and this messy thing called messy grace. I learned so much about this thing called messy grace at an incredible place – a blog written by my friend Steve. There is also a really neat messy grace community Facebook group that are just a bunch of people that love people just where they are. That helped me too! They just love people really well, and they share so much of this messy grace with everyone. I mean it, Janet. EVERYONE! I bet that would make you giggle. Just all this talk about messy grace! Hehe.
I wanna tell you a little bit about the things I’ve been thinking about and realizing. I’ve been telling Jeremy and James this, so I’d tell you too.
I’m starting to see just how much God loves us. I’m finding out a lot about my own faith in God. I know, you’d smack my hand if I told you I wanted to punch God in the face some days. I’m not doing to lie, baby. It makes me so mad at Him sometimes because you weren’t healed here on Earth. But, I’m so so so happy that you got to meet Jesus. I know that even just hours before you took that last breath, you smiled because you knew it was almost time.
Anyway, I’ve decided to live my life in a little bit different of a way. I’ve decided it’s time to own my faith. What that means I’d I know what things I believe, but I just realized I didn’t always know why. Do you understand? I know you do. I don’t want to have what’s called blind faith. I just mean that – you know, when a person is blind, they can’t see. Well, I don’t want to believe things with my eyes closed. I want to believe them for myself – not because someone else tells me to. It’s more important than that.
One of the biggest things that my heart needs, and wants other people to understand, is love. Love can move mountains. I bet that would make you laugh – silly mommy. But live is such a big thing. I know you knew that though.
The world we live in right now needs so much more love. One thing going on right now is so many people aren’t showing people love very well. I know, you would ask why, and it would make you sad. Baby, it makes me sad too.
One thing going on is the LGBTQ+ community. I know, those letters sounds silly. What those letters are talking about are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and the plus is for all the other things in between. Lesbians are when girls like or love and want to marry other girls. Being gay is like the same thing, but with boys who like other boys. Bisexual is when a boy likes boys and girls, and also if girls like girls or boys. Transgender people are people who feel like they were born in the wrong body. They might be a person who was born with boy parts, but has always felt like that was a mistake. And even sometimes girls are born with a vagina, but they always feel like they were supposed to be a boy. Queer is kind of hard to explain. Not really, I don’t guess. It just means anything but straight. Straight people are when a man loves a woman, or a woman loves a man. But, when a person is queer, they can like it love anyone. The Q also can stand for questioning. For a lot of people, there is a time when they start to question and explore who they think are nice and that they might want to get to know better and maybe love.
This community is in the news a lot lately. It makes me sad, and I know it would make you sad too. One thing that makes me sad is that people don’t treat people very nicely. I think you’d be super proud to help me with this next thing. I know how much loving people means to you. You would want to help me love people well. ALL people.
See, you know we go to church. I have figured something out, sweetheart. Not our church, but so many different churches aren’t doing very well in how they love people. I know, you probably can’t understand that! It’s crazy! Cause, God wants us to love every single person – even if they look different, or live different, or if they marry differently. But so many people don’t love people like that. They only love the people they understand. It makes me sad about this LGBTQ+ community because they are very special too. The Bible does talk about homosexuality (that is when two people who are either both boys or both girls love each other and want to be a family) and says in some places that it’s wrong. A lot of churches even tell them that they can’t be a Christian because of the way that they love people.
I’m going to tell you this. I don’t really believe that’s true. I know there are a lot of people who may not like that I say that. And they may not believe it. Some may even get mad. But, I think they can come to Jesus and all Him (like you did) to come into their heart and be a part of their life. What happens after that is between that person and God. I’m not God. (I know! That’s funny for me to say!) But, I’m not Him and I can’t really tell you how He will act or react. But what I do think is that He will love them very well. You know how I feel about God, and when people want to know Him more. He welcomes people right where they are. That is what I think.
I want to help people, all people, even in the church to love all people well — not just the people that they agree with. See, I’ve told you this so many times. As people who love Jesus, (we call them Christians or Christ followers) we are asked (by God Himself) to be like the hands and feet of Jesus. Kind of like if Jesus was here, we should act how He acted. Even to people we don’t think deserve love. When Jesus was alive as a person on the earth, He would be deleted with so many people. He loved people well. He would even hang out with really sick people, people who would break the law, and even really mean people. Just like I told you a lot, Christians need to act like Jesus because sometimes we’ll be the only Jesus they might ever see. We need to act like him, and treat people like He would. It makes me so happy when people really do that.
So, I just think everyone, even and especially Christ followers, need to be known by how we love people, not by all the things don’t like. It’s all about the love, and I hope so many more people can start to #RememberTheLove. With ALL people.
Janet, I love you more than The World – to the moon and back. Your Daddy, James and Jeremy also miss you so much. We all do. People we’ve never even met love and miss you! Oh, and I was looking at some special notes that your friends from school wrote to you when you were here, and even some notes from every single kid in the first grade work you. That miss you so much too! Evie. I know how much you loved her. I do too. Her whole family is just amazing. Every time I see Evie, I get a great big squeezy hug. She always tells me how much she loves you, and misses you. Do you know how happy that makes me? I’m so happy she likes to give me hugs. Oh, did you know, she cut off her pretty long hair so she could donate her hair to another little person like you were. I know why both of you got along so well. I hope that we can stay friends with her whole family, forever. Me and Jeremy got to go with her to get her hair cut. I will share pictures here after I make sure her mommy doesn’t care.
You always knew how much you were loved though. So these special people like here in your page (who I love so so much too) also pray for our family all the time. I know I’d make it somehow, but you being in Heaven is even bearable because of all these friends and all the people who love us, and who pray for us. I know that makes you happy too!
I guess I will stop writing now. I want you to know how much I love you, and I always will. I miss you, baby – but I’m smiling now. I’m so happy that even though you were here with us on earth for only seven years, I’m so proud to be your mommy. You James and Jeremy make me so happy. I’m smiling right now because I remember so many really happy and special times. I love you! Forever!
This picture is one I haven’t always as freely shared. It, however, is a beautiful moment in time. A moment that I have come to cherish so much more than words could ever explain. This little girl blessed lives, mine especially, in tremendous ways. There isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t miss her smile, hey love, and her “squeezy hugs” she so lovingly shared. I shared the following on her page, and I’d like to share it here as well. I feel these words are important enough that ALL people need to hear them.
I haven’t been silent here on Janet’s page because I wanted to – more because I needed to. Life just kept happening in a way that I had to take a step back, reflect, and just be. I know this is an incredibly beautiful community. A place fill of so much love. You all understand the concept of what #RememberTheLove really means.
Friends, I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t an element of brokenness also as to why the absence. As you can imagine, life isn’t ever again going to be what it once was – full of her bright, love-giving smiles and hugs. This, alone, breaks my heart. But, that’s not to say that life doesn’t hold incredibly precious moments.
I will say this also. Both Janet’s life and also her death have taught me powerful lessons on life and love.
You see, I’ve often mentioned the value of another person’s time and the true gift that it’s friendship. It is simply irreplaceable.
I’d like to share a “case in point” example of this scenario in action. What I want to showcase is that – though there is pain attached to these memories and events – there is also an incredible amount of comforting love.
In the months and even years leading up to her death, so many people surrounded us in love. As those years turned to months, and the months then turned to weeks – a different kind of people, new and deepening friendships emerged. The last two weeks were beautiful in so many ways. People we never expected became close, like family. They were welcomed with open arms. Desperately needed in those final moments. And, they were there.
In the weeks, now months since Janet passed away, there has become yet another shift. I have come to realize that some of those friendships were built for just a season. That season, and sadly nothing more – whereas, some of these same friendships have stood the tests of time – and also including death and grief.
There have been many who uttered words that I’ve found myself only wishing they meant – I’ll be here for you – any time, day or night. But, even in those times, I sit back and breathed it all in. I take those (sometimes painful) moments, and I remember whatever season someone said this to me in – thankful again for whatever part they played in our story.
I will tell you this – it is for these reasons that I don’t as often say these words to people. When I do, you can rest, assured that I mean what u say. That kind of offer won’t ever come with an expiration date. Perhaps this is because I know the intense pain of needing someone who once filled a very special place – it maybe just because I love people and see the inherent value of human life.
Whatever the case may be – I want to thank you for the part you’ve played in our journey – before or after Janet passed away — even if you are one who (consciously or otherwise) walked away when you didn’t know how to handle things. This (inaction) doesn’t define the purposeful and special times we did share.
You be you. There’s no-one more qualified to play your part. Just also allow me to be me – learning and growing, grieving and loving. That, after all, is what so much of life is about. To live and be loved.
And, friends, I meant every word – both there, and here. It is with sincere gratitude I say thank you for sharing and walking through this life with me. I cannot do it alone.