It’s not that I consider myself an expert in grief or joy- but since I’ve just survived (not celebrated) the 25th anniversary of the deaths of my three sons, I feel I have seen more than most how this plays out in my own life.

Grief and joy seem to be polar opposites. There are a lot of people who think that one cannot experience joy while experiencing grief….and also not experience grief while experiencing joy. I beg to differ.

In my life…I’ve experienced the deepest of grief in losing my three sons at the same time at the hand of their father – and then…only nine short months later….lost my mother. You could say, and I’d tend to agree, it was the worst year of my life.

But was it? Was it the worst YEAR of my life? By stating this – it would infer that my entire year were wrought with the immense grief and difficulties these two events brought about. But, that is not entirely true. Because during this same year, I got engaged, met my first nephew, spent time with family and friends…..and during those times…I was able to feel immense JOY…..but it was still in the “time” of my grief.

So….which is it? Was it the worst or the best? Well….it was both! And…sometimes the two collided!

I explain it like this. On the day I got engaged and the time afterwards….I felt such joy and happiness and wanted to share with everyone…including my children that were no longer here. I call that “where my two worlds collide”. It’s where what is happening in the now and what I want to happen…can’t…because they are no longer here. It is feeling the sadness and grief for what should have been but no longer can be….colliding with what is happening in this moment…and the joy it brings me…in the present.

I also call it a double-edged sword. And, I feel so many decisions and things in life are like this. I feel I could have missed out on the possibility of grief and joy co-existing in this moment. If I had chosen grief, I would have allowed myself to only feel the angst of missing my kids…the anger of them not being with me to celebrate this moment…the sadness of realizing life without them….and most…would probably say it was a validated feeling. And I don’t argue that…BUT…I would argue to say if I had chosen this side of the sword…I would have missed out on the joy of the moment….the love I was feeling….the possibility of life moving forward….of feeling a purpose for continuing on…for so much.

So…I chose joy. That doesn’t mean I didn’t feel the grief….not at all. What it meant though….is as I allowed the pendulum to swing back and forth….MY CHOICE….was to have it land on joy. I didn’t allow myself to get bogged down in the “what should have been”…..but I DID allow myself to feel it. Instead, I chose to feel it….and then KEEP MOVING FORWARD into the joyful feelings.

It seems hard and unlikely we are capable of making these choices. But to that I completely disagree. If you know me, have been around me for long or have heard me speak – you KNOW I believe in the power God gave us.

“We don’t always get to choose what happens to us…but we always have the power to choose how we react!” ~me

This is what I call the power within. I don’t tell people to not feel what they are feeling or going through…but I do tell them they have the power to choose what they wish to do about it. How they choose will determine so much. I truly believe in feeling your feelings in a way of working through it. Feel it – grieve – be frustrated – be angry – just don’t stay there. Unless you want to…and truly…who wants to stay there? It is hard and miserable.

The night my boys died I cried out “WHY NOT ME?” I wondered why it was not me instead of them. But then I chose to calm down and promised them I’d live the rest of my life trying to figure out what my purpose is. There must be a reason I am left here without them…and I promised to spend the rest of my life trying to figure it out. Because as long as I’m pursuing it…I’m living. I’m still breathing…they aren’t. Does that hurt? ABSOLUTELY it does. But it was my new reality.

My reality was to either choose to wallow in the grief…or to learn to find joy…and allow them to coexist. I chose the latter. And it is truly a choice. To keep moving. Sometimes I choose and then fall into the opposite of my choices…and so I have to choose again. I didn’t say it was easy….all I’m saying is it is possible.

The crazy thing is – in the past 25 years I’ve met more parents who have lost a child/children than I ever thought possible. I’ve realized the island I felt like I was on – is actually a continent because it is so large…. with citizens who never intended to travel there and now have a citizenship they never wanted to have.

But while on this continent, I’ve watched it’s citizens. I’ve seen the ones who have chosen grief over joy – and it makes me sad. They allow the pendulum to swing – but you can tell the choice is grief – because that is where they tend to land. I’ve also watched citizens choose joy. They allow their grief and joy to not just coexist – but they sprinkle each in healthy doses as they share with others to show them this island is not our only place of residence. The island of loss is just one of our dual-citizenships. It isn’t what defines us – but it is something we will not deny as being a part of us.

I’ve also seen some who think they’ve chosen joy over grief. They act as if the loss didn’t happen. If I don’t talk about it or acknowledge it – I can move forward and find joy. I’m afraid, however, the body knows. The unhealthy art of stuffing our feelings, not being real enough to allow our hearts to feel the tough stuff….isn’t truly joy. It isn’t really moving forward. It’s more like running away from something instead of moving towards something. This, too, makes me sad for others. As much as they think they are choosing joy….they are sometimes working so hard to NOT allow grief in…they are missing out on true joy.

All of this to say – I believe you have to allow both grief and joy to coexist in your life. But…I also believe you must make a choice on which one you will land on….which one you will lean into when the other gets too heavy….when the angst of grief is pulling you down and into a place that seems unhealthy and you can’t or don’t want to go on…that is when your choice of joy must happen. You MUST start to retrain your brain to go back towards the blessings….the now…the possibilities of life from this moment on.

Each day – we are one day closer to our loved ones. Each day – we have the ability to make progress. For me….it looked like purposes. Find yourself a purpose. It might only be for the next few moments, the next few hours, a day or so, or months…but you MUST find a purpose for why you are here.

My initial purpose – was to plan a celebration of my boys that was more about how they lived instead of how they died. It had to be safe enough for all the school-aged children to feel safe to be there and to feel what they needed to feel. Then, it was going to their school…so those kids could see that I was “okay”. Because I felt like if they could see that it was okay for me to keep going…they’d know it was okay for them to keep going as well. Then, it was to help take care of my terminally ill mother. To care for her, repair our broken relationship, to create memories I would need to carry me in my new grief when I lost her too. It was to take the burden from my father when mom was ready to talk about her final/funeral wishes “because unfortunately I knew what would be needed”. It was to put her mind at ease knowing her wishes would be taken care of and her love would be poured out. Then, it was helping to take care of my family in new loss. But – there was also joyful purposes. It was planning my wedding and my sister’s wedding. It was talking about creating a new life. My purposes kept changing – but I was always finding them.

Was it hard. You bet it was. In the midst of it all, I was also allowing myself the times needed to talk through my grief, my losses, my feelings about each event. I was being real with myself and those closest to me….so that I could work through it instead of sitting in the middle of it.

I didn’t do all of it right. I promise you that. But…I’ve made it 25 years. I’ve experienced a lot. I try to share now…not because I did it perfectly. But I did make it here – and learned a lot along the way. I share to help those who are new to the grief part. I share because I want to see them able to make the choice of joy and grief coexisting.

I also want to make my boys, and my mom proud. I want to make my children still on this earth proud. I want to help others, and believe that now, that is my purpose.

Much love ~c

Let’s just begin by saying I’ve been “in my head” almost this whole damn day. I knew it was coming….I thought I was prepared. But…it ended up being a double whammy.

Let me explain……

I’ve already made a social media post about it being National Bereaved Mother’s Day. How odd….really. We get our OWN Day. Not Mother’s Day – even though we ARE STILL MOTHERS! But a whole day. Before Mother’s Day. Like every.other.day of the year is any different. Like we don’t realize we are walking around without our child(ren) here with us. Or that we don’t realize Mother’s Day is coming ….. and again…it’s gonna hurt like hell.

NO – this is actually for a different reason.

Allow me to invite you into some parts of my brain. The crazy inside my head.

You see…today is the 59th birthday of someone who I once loved. Of someone……who is the reason I “celebrate” on days like today.

What an oxymoron. What a double edged sword. What a place where my two worlds collide. You see – as hard as Mother’s Day is for me….there are times….that Father’s Day is even worse. This…because….I chose who was to be their father. I chose the person who would take their young lives. And for this – I’ve owned way more than I should…at times.

But – it started with love. Love of a smile and personality. Young love. Some might say stupid, blind love. Some even say I should wish he were never born!! But how??? Because then…I would have never had my 3 boys! Cody, Cory and Caleb are here…because he was here first. I couldn’t imagine life without them…therefore…I also…cannot…imagine life without him. Without the love we had…at first.

I also own – my part in the deterioration of our marriage. Neither of us were perfect. Although – that is what most saw. The perception – because of the portrayal – was almost perfection. When we split – it was difficult. It was…unheard of. There were only a small number who knew my why. And I chose – to not share with the world. Believe it or not…..I wasn’t out there saying he was bad. We just didn’t fit…any more. Probably – we never did. But God was going to use us – even if – even if we weren’t meant to be together. Our lives were intertwined when I got pregnant with Cody at 16. From there….as I told my Sunday School girls so many times – God rewrote HIS plans…from plan A – to possibly ZZZ by then! He is good like that….and keeps on rewriting…and using my mess ups…for His good.

No – I am struggling today. I chose him. I chose the one. The one…who took them from me. I will own many things – but I will no longer own his final actions. Those – are on him. But I do struggle with the fact I chose him.

I didn’t know what I didn’t know. So many times – now – I want all the answers laid out in front of me before I will leap. But, my friends, that is not how life…or God…work. My faith…has been tested….and strengthened….over and over again.

My choices – led to even more heart-wrenching realizations through the years. From hearing about a pastor I finally – once opened up to – saying “I guess Cheli wasn’t lying all this time after all.” While standing in my parent’s kitchen on THE DAY the boys died!!! To now – still hearing about some thinking how I “Use my boys story for the attention”. Guys – it hurts. It all hurts.

I hurt today for the love lost….the family lost. His family…was mine…..until it wasn’t. I still remember all the birthdates….the memories are still there. I know it will never be the same. But today – I acknowledging….it hurts. It has hurt for a very long time.

I’m not a perfect person. Nobody is. But I’m pretty real. I’ve withdrawn…over and over…just trying to protect my heart. I’ve withdrawn to protect my children, my husband, my family. But sometimes…I just want to be real. It hurts. It stinks. I’ve lost more than just my boys. I lost my house…my safe spaces. I lost friends…and I’ve lost (and grieved) a whole lifetime of memories with people I considered my family.

I sit here – thinking again just how fragile life is. I have a wonderful family…wonderful friends….wonderful life. But – there is sometimes a draw to sit…be real with myself…and know this life never would have existed…..had I not chosen him. Had I not experienced loss…profound loss. I would not be who I am today…without all of it. Every.single.puzzle.piece. Every bit of it is necessary to make me…..me.

and I’m learning to like me. I like the mom of adult children. I like the friend of real people….who accept me as my crazy, freaking-real and always back-and-forth self. I like the life I’ve created with my family. I like the way I live on purpose. I like….no…I love my life. ALL OF IT.

Has it been easy? No. Would I do it again? I’d have to. It’s the only way possible to get to the me I am today. It’s the only way possible to spend time on this earth with all five of my kiddos. It’s the only way to experience them here so I can look forward to eternity with them there.

So – some day – most always – you will see me – and never know some of this…underneath it all…thought process…going on in my head. But today – I wanted to share. I hope you aren’t scared off. I hope you’re not…thinking she should be committed (although there are days……;))

All of this to say. Be yourself. Inside and out. Be real with who you are. Struggles and all. I struggle because I chose him. I struggle because his birthday is hard. I struggle because I miss some of the good times. I struggle because it’s hard to explain. I struggle because I am afraid having these feelings will hurt others I love today. I struggle because I’m always afraid I will never be enough. I struggle because I want to help more than I can. I struggle because I own more than I should. I struggle because I take too much on. I struggle because I love big…but then sometimes I don’t love big enough. I struggle because I don’t like to get it wrong.


I also struggle because I’m so happy now…how can I be sad? I struggle now because I feel so loved and I sometimes don’t always know how to love the right way back. I struggle because life has been so good to me…yet I see others feel like it hasn’t been so good to them. I struggle now because my life seems easy to so many…am I hurting their faith by being too real?

See…depends on which side of the sword you fall. You choose. Remember that. Remember you choose where you land. I allow myself to see my struggles, my pain and my hardships….but I try…to always choose…to land in the land of love…abundance…and faith. God has carried my through so much. He has always had my back. He has stood in the room….with my boys….and carried them home with Him. He has watched me cry and always sent me some kind of sign of love…at JUST THE RIGHT TIME! He as shown my how by sharing…others have come to have hope…and to love Him. I’ve NEVER…been alone.

And…neither are you. Today is somebody’s birthday I once loved. today is a day for Mother’s who’s children no longer are here with them. Today is a day for feelings to be real. Today. Is just another day. and…tomorrow will still come. Which “head-space” will you be in when you wake up? Who will you choose to be today? Tomorrow? I choose to be the one who still loves….who still is real…and feels…ALL THE THINGS!

If you’ve made it this far…thank you. I’m not sure if any of this makes sense….or if I’ve just rambled. Just know…you are loved…and you aren’t alone.

Much love – today and always – ~C

I’m sitting in a space of feelings this morning. I’m teetering on what I call the juxtaposition of grief and joy. I’m beyond thankful for the kindness and love shown to me and my family today….and yet wishing so much there weren’t a need for it!

Being honest with my feelings is something I try hard to do. And I share…because I’ve come to realize how it has helped others….but mostly as a keepsake for my kiddos! I started this blog kind of as a way to share with them my feelings…my highs and lows…my ups and downs…. I haven’t come here often recently – but today – I wanted to share.

You see…I’ve had all the feels lately. It started a week ago. It always does – I walk through the last week the boys and I had. I remember where we ate – specific conversations – so many things. But this year has been a bit different. It has worn on me…more than usual. I’ve tried to figure out why. I realized it’s because I used to be in a space at work – alone – to deal with it – This year, I’ve been in an office setting and around others a lot more. I’ve “put on my face” more than usual…and tbh…it’s been exhausting. Not bad…just exhausting.

I couldn’t sleep – and I came into the living room to a balloon bouquet. 3 blue Mylar balloons and a large silver c3! just like the ones from the 20 year anniversary balloon release. I checked my ring door camera – and it was one of my bffs. I’m not surprised. I just sat here…in the dark…listening to the rain…and seeing the balloons. It made me feel sad. It made me feel loved. It made me angry there was a reason for balloons like this. It made me think of so many years spent without my children. Tears gently filled my eyes, rolled down my cheek and then my neck. My heart hurts and feels loved, all at the same time.

My c3angels. Cody, Cory & Caleb

Where would they be? Who would they be? So many things going through my mind.

I’m a numbers girl. 26 years without them here. They were 11, 10 and 8 then. They should be 37, 36 and 34 now. 2-22….such a difficult day in my family’s life now. 9,490 days I’ve lived without them. Countless though….are the numbers of people their story has touched….helped….and even saved. I have to include this – not because of anything I’ve done right…but because realizing it – helps me keep going.

Then there is a feeling of guilt. Now…I know and I’ve come to the resolution of knowing I couldn’t have saved them. Maybe that day – but I can’t what if my life like that. My guilt – is more about their brother and sister. They have a more complicated grief. They have grief for someone they never met. Brothers….they didn’t get to meet. They have to watch me go through it but not know more than the stories we’ve shared. They love brothers they never met. They truly love them…and grieve for them…and I don’t really know how to help. I hate that part for them. It feels selfish. I wanted more kiddos but almost didn’t do it…just knowing they would have to deal with this…for the rest of their lives too. Now, watching their grief and sadness…hurts my heart. If you think of them…please say some extra prayers for their hearts today too.

20 year balloon release – family & friends

And the feelings of loss….of 26 years of being their mom…stolen from me. It’s so hard to put into words. Of course I get angry when I think about it in that way. Yes, I’m thankful for the years we had. But as a mom – you want to see them grow up – go to school – have all the experiences. I’ve missed all of that. I miss their smiles. I miss their perspectives. I miss their big hugs and love….more than I can even say. I miss the way they loved others too. I miss everything. I miss Cody’s protective nature of me…I miss Cory’s enthusiasm and songs….I miss Caleb’s orneriness….I miss it all. I strain, sometimes, to remember little details. There are no facebook memories in real time. We didn’t have phone cameras to save pics constantly. I don’t have all of that. Sometimes that is okay – sometimes it just isn’t.

And sometimes – I just miss what the world missed out on. I miss who they could have been and the impact they could have made. Their contribution to the world as teens, as men. I do realize they have had a huge contribution though…they have made differences in the story of their short lives. But tbh – I wish it weren’t that way. I wish they could have decided how they wanted to impact the world. I wish that hadn’t been taken away from them.

I’m thankful for friends and family who share today with me. I’m thankful for the strength it has shown us we have. Do I wish that weren’t the case? Yes…yes I do. But I acknowledge it is true. I’m thankful for my sister – who was with me that day – and now hardly a day goes by we don’t talk. Our bond was always strong – but it’s different when you go through this kind of thing together. Her strength has been mine, and mine hers….for so long now. We are intertwined in ways that is more than just being sisters. It is sisters…who’ve gone through hell together…and will hold each other up…in and through anything. I’m thankful for my family – my husband who allows me to be me…to feel how I feel and puts up with the swing of emotions. He feels it with me…he knows…he knew them too. He loved them too. My kids – who through their own grief….always want to make sure I’m okay. They love me through and have been my “why” for a long time now. I’m thankful for friends…who check on me, let me cry….be real…and lift me up no matter what.

I know I have so much to be thankful for….today and always. Today, is just hard. My arms are empty…but my heart is full. My heart hurts and feels loved all at the same time. The juxtaposition of grief and joy is a real thing. It’s that double-edged sword. It’s where my two worlds collide. Today – they just collide like a 9.9 magnitude earthquake.

The smiles I miss – the hugs I miss – the reunion I look forward to!

A Mother’s Love….

Not gonna lie – today has been hard….for many reasons.

First – today is my mom’s birthday. This alone is hard….

But today – I sat with my friend as her momma heart broke. I watched as she did one of the hardest things ever – as a mom. Her child is an adult – but still her momma heart broke. As I held her and let her cry – and breakdown…she told me her momma heart was broken. But then….then she said something profound……

What she said is, “It doesn’t hurt for me, it hurts for him.” And….as I’ve pondered this thought all day, it has made me reflect on my own thoughts of my kids, and of my momma and all she endured through us…and also of so many of my momma friends…as I’ve watched the seasons of motherhood change and be difficult for each of them.

I have momma friends who have watched a child through a serious illness….and recover. And I’ve watched as some of them had to say goodbye to their child. Some, have had difficulties with children’s behaviors. Others, have guided children through tough times and seen them get better….while some haven’t gotten better. Some are parenting a child/children through special needs….and more than just a parent to them, but an advocate for them! So many times though….there is one thing that remains…..

A mother’s love…never changes….never waivers…never goes away.

I thought of the times my own mother held me. I thought of the day my boys died – she was in the hospital….and checked herself out…after hearing the news…so she could be at home when I got there. She left her own pain in the background to tend to mine. She held pillows against her as I laid my head in her lap and she stroked my hair and held me through my tears. Her pain – wasn’t as painful – as the pain….her heart was feeling for me. I didn’t think of it in this way at the time….all I knew was I needed my momma.

That is what we, as moms, do. We feel for our kids. We see the possibilities in them…..at every age. We want more for them….than we ever had. We dream big dreams for them…and teach them how to dream for themselves. We are their biggest cheerleaders and their most loyal fans. Yet, we are also the ones they are the meanest to, when their world is falling apart. When they have unknown and crazy emotions, we are the ones they take it out on. We are their safe place as young children…..and as they grow into young adults. But being their safe place looks so very different at those ages.

As young kiddos hurt themselves or are hurt by others, our children run to us. They run into the safest place they know – momma’s arms. We kiss their boo-boos and place bandaids on every scrape. We take care of them, in every way possible. There are things we do they never realize – they just know they trust that mom will make everything okay!

Until they think that we are the ones that make everything NOT okay. When they are trying to become more independent – they seem to think we are the ones who make their life more difficult. We are still their safe place, but now….that means we are the ones they release their emotions onto. It took me a long time to realize this is truly because we are their safe place and NOT because they hate us! It is truly because they know there is NOTHING that can make us stop loving them. It is because they are so confused with life and their own feelings that we are where the release happens – and they don’t even always know why.

Then there is when they become adults and don’t quite “need” us as much any more. This phase can be difficult still….yet also beautiful. At this stage I can actually have my child as a friend. A close person to share life with – in a different way than before.

But with this phase also comes more difficult roads. From my years on this earth, I’ve gained wisdom my children do not yet have. I see things around the corner for them if behavior continues. I see things and I cannot always tell them….because I have to let them live their life – so they are able to gain the same kind of wisdom my life has afforded me.

But sometimes – many times – it hurts. It hurts a momma’s heart to watch our babies hurt. To watch them be scared and no longer be able to hold their hand and make everything okay.

A momma’s heart is probably the strongest thing on earth. We are confidantes….counselors….nurses….teachers….warriors. We will fight for our babies, no matter what. Our hearts have to be strong. We hurt, when our babies hurt. We hurt, when we can’t make it better, or fix the situation. We have to be strong, because that is what a momma does.

Today, I celebrate my momma. Happy Birthday momma. I’ve missed you all these years. I’ve missed our daily talks, our crazy relationship nobody else could/would understand. I thank you, for all the times, I now realize, your heart hurt for me. It wasn’t hurting for you, it was for me.

I see this….I feel this.

I know every mom feels this.

We want the world for our kiddos. We would lay down our own lives for them.

And when our momma hearts hurt….it isn’t for us….it’s for them.

Today, on my momma’s birthday, I was reminded of a mother’s love. It is fierce. It is strong. It is unwavering. There is nothing on this earth quite like it. It is how I imagine God loves…..

Today – I’m thankful for a mother’s love. I’m thankful for my mother. I see who she was and what she did for me…now more than ever. I’m thankful for my children and for being a mother. It is like no other “job” in the world. One I wouldn’t give up…ever. I’m thankful for all those I get to be “Momma Cheli” to. I love each and every single one who calls me this as my own…and my heart and love is as a true momma. I’m thankful for so many momma friends. The things I’ve learned from so many of you, as you have let me come alongside you as you raise your children….as I watch your family unfold through social media….and as you share with me the real struggles and triumphs….are unending and so appreciated.

Thank you, for loving me through this journey. Let’s remember we all love…and are trying. None of us are perfect…the only perfection in us is in the love of our hearts for our children. There truly is nothing quite like…a mother’s love.


I remember the day after my boys died. I remember waking up….and feeling like I had had a bad dream. Then, reality hit…..and it hit HARD. I think I’ve written about this day before…I called it the second worse day of my life. Waking up to my new reality…..realizing this was it. Realizing my boys were gone…they would be gone for the rest of my life….and every morning when I woke up – would be another day without them. It was awful.

But, I also can tell you I had hope. I knew where my boys were and the hope I would see them again. I knew they each had a personal relationship with Jesus and had accepted him into their hearts. I had (have) the promise of eternity spent with them. I had the hope of being able to get through the rest of my life on this earth…and then being able to spend eternity with them…..hugs and smiles and forever with my boys…..this is what helped to get me through.

As I sit this morning in my quiet time…..I thought of Mary. I thought of her mother’s heart on the day after her boy died. She knew Jesus….but only as her son….not as the Risen Saviour. She didn’t have the hope of the cross….she only had the hurt of the cross. I’m sure her heart grieved in a way I can’t understand. For on the day after, her waking up to her new reality……she had to do it without hope. I cannot fathom. I cannot imagine how someone could lose their child without the hope of seeing them again. I don’t understand that feeling.

As I think of Mary…..right now….as she sat in the in-between…my heart grieves for her momma heart! Oh how hopeless she must have felt. She watched her son die…..she knew he was meant for more. She knew he had been “heaven-sent” and for a purpose…. But, OH…..her momma heart had to be screaming out at God! She had been robbed of her son. She had to have felt helpless…..hopeless…..and just heavy. Goodness…my heart aches right now for her…..for on this day….the day after her son died……she had no hope….because she didn’t know that tomorrow the tomb would be empty…..that He became HOPE!

Losing a child…..losing anyone is hard. But a child…..it feels like you are robbed. It is so unnatural. It is a part of you….that is supposed to outlive you. Your child is the epitome of hope….new life….that is supposed to continue on after you are gone. It is a pain like I’ve never experienced before. And I’m sure, Mary, felt it too. She lost her baby. No matter how old he was….no matter what God’s purpose for His life was….He….was her baby. Her heart….was ripped out.

I’m so thankful….that from the moment my boys died….I knew where they were. I knew they were with God….with the only being who could love them more than me. I knew they had no more pain…and would never experience heartache or sorrow again. And I knew….I would see them again. I knew I had hope. I knew I could get through this life without them….because the prize….in the end….we will be together again…for eternity.

Today is the day Mary had no hope. Today is the day she had to have felt like she couldn’t go on. Today is the day she woke up without knowing….without any kind of solace. Today was dark. Today was the day without any kind of joy.

But tomorrow…..oh tomorrow…..it is the day she will realize hope. It is the day she will realize her eternity will change. It is the day of joy…of hope…of love…and of life!

He will rise! She didn’t know it….but we do!

If you are stuck in darkness….and don’t feel the hope of tomorrow….feel free to reach out….to ask questions. I want you to know the hope I have. I want you to have the joy I have. I want you to know it is possible to smile….to look forward…even after loss. Even after losing my children….I smile….I feel joy…and I have hope…………

All because…..tomorrow is coming!

Much love to you all ~c

Then and Now

Today was a weird day.

Actually, it was pretty awesome on the outside! Family still here from the holiday….busy and productive day at work….came home to 3 Christmas trees up and ready to be decorated….so to all it seemed perfectly normal.

The weird…..was in my head.

You see….I can usually go about my days and nobody has any idea of all that is going on INSIDE MY HEAD! My thoughts are all over the place.

And today…was no different.

For you see today…….I took some really good looks at my daughter.

She was grumpy because we had to wake her up to get ready to go to lunch with us. She was tired and a bit moody….then spent time with the boyfriend….then up late studying and working on schoolwork.

All seems normal doesn’t it.

So again, it was what was going on inside my mind where the “weird” was.

Today, looking at her. I saw me.

I say this….because today….she is EXACTLY the same age I was on the day I said “I do” in my first marriage.

I looked at her and wondered how in the world did I do it! How did I go from 16 year old teenager, dancer, and carefree girl….to married, expectant mom, kinda on my own girl?

I mean…..I can’t imagine my daughter being where I was. I look at her today, and see a girl who is about to turn 17 but nowhere near ready to be on her own. I see her enjoying life…but a life where she knows she has that “cushion” of a family behind her. She isn’t totally responsible for everything yet. I still spoil her and do for her….but she is doing more and more for herself.

I told nobody about this…except her. I told my sweet girl if she wanted a glimpse into who I am…part of what made me who I am today….to realize that tomorrow when she wakes up….I was waking up a married woman. I was now in charge of cooking, shopping and cleaning. All while still going to school….preparing to be a mom…..and learning how to be married. We discussed where I was and where she is. She couldn’t imagine or believe it…..and honestly…neither can I.

I don’t take for granted all I accomplished. I failed…a lot. But I learned. I learned from watching others and from my own mistakes. I learned by trying….and continuing to try. I had no idea I would have 3 children before I was 21. Or….that I’d lose those same 3 children when I was 29!

I had no idea of all I’d go through in life.

But…..God did. He knew. He allowed me to be broken. He allowed me to experience glorious and wonderful highs….all while knowing there would be some miserable lows. He allowed it all.

And through it all, He strengthened me. He taught me. He held me.

I looked at my daughter today and saw all the things I had done so purposeful for her. The things we talk about….the things I allow and don’t allow…..all FOR her. All because of what I’ve learned….what I’ve walked through. So much so…that now…when I get concerned….sometimes she has to remind me she is NOT me!

I never thought back then to seek out help from others….I didn’t know about community. I didn’t know what I needed and I didn’t know I could ask.

Today, it’s still hard. I’ve seen so much in life…..yet I still don’t feel like I’m “there”. I have learned a LOT…yet there is still so much to figure out!

Today…in my mind….was that “double-edged sword”. Today, I saw me, and my mistakes, and my joys. I also saw my today, my hard times and my triumphs. I saw the young lady I’ve been blessed to raise. I saw history change and it felt good.

I saw love. I saw the way God loved me…even when I didn’t/don’t deserve it. I saw the love I have for my daughter, and all I want for her in life. I saw the way I’ve learned to love myself, the good and the bad.

Today was kinda hard….and kinda good….and kinda weird.

But tomorrow, new mercies. Tomorrow, new beginnings. Tomorrow, new opportunities. Tomorrow….if God chooses to wake me up….there is MORE!

I hope you realize…even on your “weird” days…..there is so much to be thankful for!

I do! And I am!

MUCH love!


This is a very vulnerable post. It may not be politically correct or even biblically correct…and I’m okay with that….because this is my post. My story. My stuff. Like it or not, but don’t comment or condemn if you don’t at least try to understand.

I realized this past weekend I’ve been struggling to be seen.

What this means to me is…I’m a giver. I love nothing more than finding a need and trying to meet it. I don’t have to have the credit…I don’t need the receiver to even know it was me…I just love to give….to be the unseen angel who meets a need of another. I especially love to give to other mothers…because…I get it.

I give to others as a part of my love language. I love listening or noticing enough to know something someone wants, loves, needs….and tucking that knowledge away for a time I can meet the need….or they need a pick-me-up. I love taking care of others. I love being “Momma Cheli” to so many. There just aren’t enough words to express what being called that and being able to be that to some…means to me.

Now…I’m not always good at it…and I don’t always have the means to do everything I’d like…but I try…and I love it!

So….back to my story.

I was struggling. I mean….I do….and I do….and I do…..and I LOVE IT…yes. But sometimes….my bffs ask, “Who does for you?” And “When do YOU get to just rest?”. Because….truth be told….I stay busy – but that is a whole other issue! 🙂

I love being there for my family. I love doing the little things that support them….the extra things to make them feel seen….to make them feel loved. Things like having their favorite drink/food in the house. Or….knowing after a lock-in my baby girl would be tired…so getting up early and making sure she called me and talked to me the whole way home so she’d stay awake while on the drive home…..and folding down her bed and preparing her room so the first thing she could do was crawl in and get some much needed sleep. Things like making sure my son’s diabetic supplies don’t run low and picking them up or refilling them for him. Or like knowing when the weather turns colder my husband loves a pot of chili and making it the first cold night.

All these are just small examples of how I love to love on my people.

But moms….do you get me when I say……Sometimes I struggle to feel seen?

On same said night after getting up early – my sweet girl wanted to have dinner and a movie with her small group leader. Does that make me jealous? NO! Am I worried this lady is trying to replace me in my daughter’s world? NO! Am I secure in my relationship with my daughter? ABSOLUTELY? But…….tbh….at that moment…it felt like a punch in the gut. She goes to college and high school, and works…..and has a busy life…. as do I. And this was the one night we could’ve spent some time together! (Emphasis – to show my uncommunicated expectations…..) So, instead of wishing her well….I was silent. I let her go all while hurting her feelings….because my feelings were hurt first.

Yes….we’ve had a great convo about it and I apologized. She didn’t know what she didn’t know. And that was on me.

But that is how I was feeling. I mean, moms…..don’t you feel like you’re invisible at times? Like….who in the world do you think knows we are almost out of toilet paper, buys it, stocks it and makes sure it is in the bathroom where you need it???? There is no toilet paper fairy!! Yeah…maybe that seems silly…but think about it….how many silent fairy roles do you play?

I know my kids friends, their grades, their teachers, their moods, their needs, their wants, their fears, their thought processes and so much more. I anticipate things so my family won’t worry or be in need about so many things.

And I work…..sometimes 2 jobs! And I play nurse….financial artist…..friend….cook….teacher…counselor…..best friend…..worst enemy…..safe place…..mentor…..student…..and so much more!!!

So….after this event with my daughter and some others in my household…..I did what most moms who feel unseen do…….I took a BATH!

2 hours…..with tears and prayers flowing…….angry…hurt…

I told God I don’t get it.. I do for them…but they don’t seem to see me.

And…you have to understand….God and I work in pictures. I’m a visual learner…so this is what He shared with me…..

Think of a tree. You know….the big ones. With the thick trunks and huge leaf balls. You see it? Okay…..what would you say is the strongest part of that tree?



Most….would say the trunk. It’s massive in size and it has to be to hold up all the large branches and continue to grow.


That is exactly what I thought when God gave this to me…..

but then….He said this to me……

No….in this picture, sweet child, the strongest part of the tree is the roots. And you, dear mom, are the roots.

You see…..

The roots are where the tree (family) draws it’s strength.

They are unseen…but the most important part….for if the roots are unhealthy, so is the tree.

And the roots do so much.

They seek out the source of nourishment the tree needs. You seek ME (God) out and make sure the family (tree) stays healthy.

When the ground beneath you seems to crumble…..you continue to seek the source in order for the trees to remain healthy.

When there is too much that falls upon the tree……you (the roots) absorb it….and risk it all to make sure there is no damage to the rest of the tree (the family).

If the tree had eyes and looked down, even the branches, the leaves, the fruit and the trunk….wouldn’t realize you were there…..because you are covered by the soil. Just as your family doesn’t see or know all you do, all you pray for and how you take care of them..

But child…..I see the roots. And I see you.

You are not invisible to me. I have seen you since before I knit you into your mother’s womb and I knew…..you’d feel this way. I made you strong…..because I knew some would try to damage you…..




God sees me….and at that moment….that is all I needed.

I needed to be seen…but I was seeking it from the wrong persons….in the wrong ways.

I serve my family BECAUSE of HIM.

So, I am realigning my thinking…..I serve an audience of One…and as long as I know HE sees me….I’m going to be okay.

Dear mommas who are feeling unseen…..KNOW….beyond a shadow of a doubt….HE SEES YOU! He knows your sacrifices. He knows you need a break…..he sees you with tears in your eyes wondering if you are enough….if you can even do this mom thing…..HE KNOWS. And he sees the times you lash out because you are tired and are afraid you’ve somehow damaged your child…he sees you order pizza because you are too tired to make dinner. He knows you’re doing the best you can. He sees…..He knows…..He created you….for them.

Each root system is unique. It is specifically designed to support the tree it was created for. Some roots grow down….some grow out….some do whatever it takes.

Just like you. He specifically designed you to support your family. He created you for them….and them for you. He knew YOU were exactly what they would need….and sometimes it would be hard….and you’d question……..


He does. He did. He will continue.

You aren’t buried because you aren’t good enough. You are buried for protection. He wants to be enough for you. He wants to be your source of nourishment. He is enough.

I see you too, mommas. I get it. And so do so many others. Let’s stop acting like we are an island and start lifting each other up! We ALL struggle….to be seen…..to feel like we are enough.

This is just one night in my struggle. And how God spoke to me…in a picture…

Of a tree.

Do You Remember?

I have gone through this day in a daze. Tasks, work, taking care of your sick sister…..I guess…trying to make it a regular day (whatever that is). But it isn’t. It’s your birthday. And again – I have to “celebrate” it…..without you.

I try not to compare….you or your brothers…..but in so many ways – your birthdays are harder. You were only 8. So little…..so tiny – yet mighty! I never knew you as a “double-digit pre-teen”. I never knew you during your teens…..or your twenties…..and now – we would be celebrating your 31st birthday today – and I’ll never know you in your thirties either.

It’s so hard to imagine my sweet little boy as a man. It is so hard to know where you’d be – what you’d be like – who you’d be with – all those things are only left for me to wonder about.

I wonder – would you remember the birthday party we had where I let you guys draw a jack-o-lantern face and cut it out and then sent them home with each friend after the party? Would you remember the games we played and the way you used to be so intense at EVERYTHING you played? Would you remember all of the street hockey and how I made you wear helmets, knee pads and elbow pads so you’d be “safe”?

Safe…..I thought I was keeping you safe. But in the end….you weren’t.

Do you remember the night you spent with your friend for the last time? Do you remember not wanting to talk or hug me or tell me you loved me the last time I saw you? Do you remember the last movie you watched – Mr. Holland’s Opus?

I remember – all of it. The good – the bad. I remember the day you were born – being unprepared yet knowing when you arrived everything was perfect in my world! I remember you telling people “That’ll be a quarter” and holding your hand out for said quarter every time they wanted to rub that soft head with freshly buzzed hair! I remember watching you so intently playing video games with headphones listening to music! I remember being amazed at just how smart you were and getting so excited to see you step into that!! I remember watching you sing your heart out and play the piano with such intense love! I remember you snuggling up to me for just a moment – wanting me to hold you and needing some momma-lovin’ – but not tooooo long! I remember listening to you read and loving that sweet little voice of yours. I remember you wanting to do everything your brothers did….and working hard to keep up.

I remember. You….were such a gift. You were the child that helped to complete me and shape me. You were what I needed to complete my family.

Every year I think of you on your birthday and have so many memories flood my head. But it is only 8 years worth. Not enough.

My heart aches for you. My arms long for another hug….my eyes long to see your silly grin. I can’t fathom how many times I’ve done this or how many more I’ll have to go through before I get to see you again!

I long for heaven. I long for the time when we can hug for eternity! Caleb – you were an angel on earth and the hole in my heart is open….and bleeding today without you.

I have had trouble holding in the tears. It’s hard when I don’t often hear your name. It hurts my heart. It is hard to think the world has gone on and 23 birthdays have been without you here. 2 of your best friends checked on me…..and that helps my heart in ways I can’t even express.

I search through pics – and the memories are there. But it’s the same pictures. The same 8 years of pictures are there…..no more.

I just want you here…with me. No – I would never pull you away from the glory of heaven….but to be completely honest….the human and selfish part of me….wishes I could.

One more hug – no…it wouldn’t be enough. One more kiss…..no I’d want more. One more…would never suffice. I didn’t have enough time the first time….so I’m thankful the next time…will never end.

Until then sweet one…until then.

Your momma loves you to the moon and back. Always the mostest!

The Bullet

A couple weeks ago I was blessed and able to snag tickets to the Carrie Underwood concert here so I could add another mother/daughter concert to our list! We went and had a blast! She is quite a performer and puts on an excellent show!

My sweet girl has a beautiful voice – but also has a large dose of stage fright – but totally enjoys the musicality of other gifted artists. And….this momma LOVES watching her watch others do what she loves to do! I love this part of our relationship and the age she is at! We get along….we have fun….we laugh…..

But on this night – we also cried.

For that – I was totally unprepared. You see…..I did not see this one coming. I did not see the need to “brace up” and “be ready” for the emotions to pour down our faces in the form of tears.

But that is exactly what happened.

As we were marveling in the many dress changes and the special effects and wonderful entertainment of the night – Carrie started to sing a song I, quite honestly, had never heard before.

The Bullet.

This song is very much about the loss of a soldier. And I respect that part of it. But some of the lyrics – brought me – and her – very much to our own story.

You see – the part about the limousines driving away – and mommas ain’t supposed to bury their sons – all hit me. And they hit me really hard….

But then…..

Then it happened…..

I looked over and she was crying….sobbing actually. The tears were real and they wouldn’t stop.

You see…..this is just another moment I realized – The Bullet – doesn’t stop.

She wasn’t there to see the limousines. She wasn’t there to see this momma bury her sons. She wasn’t there.

In the song there is a line that says – “The bullet keeps on goin'”. And it has.

It has affected her life since before she took her first breath.

She has never known her three brothers – but she has known about them. She never got to meet them – but she has experienced who they were through stories and pictures. She wasn’t here to experience how the bullets took their lives – but she is here and those same bullets are still goin’……..and affecting her life. She wasn’t here to witness their deaths….but she has grieved them her entire life.

Until she takes her last breath the bullets that took the lives of her brothers will affect her – and her children…….and their children.

The bullets keep on goin’

I wasn’t prepared for this during a fun night out with my daughter. I wasn’t prepared for the reminder of how the bullets tore apart my family and are still tearing us up inside. I wasn’t thinking on this occasion I would need to hold her and reassure her of how we can have the holes from those bullets having pierced our hearts – yet know we can still live and love – and be as whole as possible even though the bullets still sting.

I don’t know what I want to share in this blog. I really don’t. I just know it will never stop.

There will always be someone’s life affected by the bullets who took their lives.

Some of those people are affected in good ways. Some people learn about my boys and the way they died – but also hear of the love they had for Jesus and how that same Jesus carried me through – and they have found hope.

Some who knew the boys – are continuing to live….and I mean…REALLY LIVE their life….because they know their friends can’t.

Some though – like my daughter – their sister – have lingering affects. They have moments when everything should be fine – and it isn’t. Like at a concert – when you should be having the time of your life – and then BAM! You are sobbing because of something – someone – you miss so terribly – but never knew.

But I can also say their story has also strengthened her. She knows what it is to hurt – to lose someone you love…to lose someone you never knew you loved….to lose someone you wish you had known. She knows what it is to comfort – because of all the times she has been comforted. She knows that what you see – isn’t always the whole story in someone’s life.

You see – the bullet never stops goin.

Just like the ripples in the water. Your actions – might not seem too big….but they can keep going….and they can affect people you don’t even know – or realize.

Be cautious sweet friends. Because the bullets don’t stop. They carry on through generations – never stopping – and affecting many more than initially intended.

I want to share the words – because the true meaning for this song – of soldiers never returning home – is beautiful. I don’t want to take anything away from this part of it. But please know – because of our wounds – we reacted in the hurt of our own story – and the way the bullet stole them from us.

The branches on my family tree are forever changed.

BUT – although the bullet keeps on goin’ ……. so does the Love and Grace of Jesus. He has carried me – and will carry the future generations as well.

Much love – ~c

Another birthday – and here I am. At the table with a keyboard and coffee. So many thoughts…..so many questions…..

“I wish I could…..”

“I wonder what you…..”

“If only I could…..”

“Would you have….?”

“Where would you be?….”

They are never-ending….especially on days like today.

I’ve heard it say “Grief is love with no physical place to go” and I believe this is true. I can’t pick up the phone and call and say “I love you!” Or “Happy Birthday Son!”. There is no conversations I can have with you…..at least….not a 2-way conversation. I have conversations with you….about life….about you…..your brother and sister….about everything….but I haven’t audibly heard your sweet voice in 8,228 days.

8,228 days since I saw your sweet smile.

8,228 days since I hugged you and was able to see you.

This is the 23rd birthday you have celebrated in heaven. I am not sure if I’m jealous….upset…..happy for you….sad for me….or all of the above!! I just can’t believe that much of my life has been here without you.

Cory – you still impact my life. The way you smiled….and embraced life….has helped me to keep moving forward instead of staying still or looking back. The way you loved…has helped me continue to love and keep my heart open instead of closing off others and trying to protect my heart from being hurt again. The way you embraced learning….has inspired me to keep growing in my mind….to keep learning and looking at everything with open thoughts and intriguing conversations had…. The way you laughed….has kept the tears at bay….and reminded me to look at the lighter side of life and to take things with a grain of salt.

Today – you would be 33 years old. Gah- just typing that hurts. I can barely see through my tears….I want so badly for you to be here with me. I feel selfish…because I can’t imagine taking you away from the beauty, splendor and love that surrounds you now in heaven. I know we will celebrate together one day….but my selfish heart wants so badly for that day to be today!!!

Sometimes…I just don’t want to ….. have more birthdays and anniversaries here….without you and your brothers. I miss you so much every day…but today…the memories flood my mind.. The day you were born….the smile you always had….the way you shadowed your brother….and the days you stepped out of that shadow to be your own kind of person…..the day I got a report from the teacher about how big your heart was to help others…the day you auditioned for the “stage” part and got it at falls creek……the nights you “tagged up” and just wanted to be near your momma….near enough to touch me….I want THAT again… I want to be able to touch you so badly. I want you here….with me….for this birthday…..for every day!

My heart literally breaks….hurts….aches….without you here.


I think you’d be proud….

Because I’m still here…..loving and living….

Crying as your brother holds me in the kitchen and let’s me just be sad for a moment. But then laughing with him as we play with the dogs and enjoy some quiet alone time this morning.

I’m continuing my life….still so thankful for your life.

Your ten years counted. The add up to more than just ten years….because for my life time….they are still counting….for the others you touched while you were here….they are still counting…. for those you’re life has touched since you’ve been gone….they are still counting.

Does that make it easier…..sometimes. But on days like today….if I have to be honest….it doesn’t. I know your impact could have been so much greater….your voice so much louder…. So….on this birthday….and every other day….I’ll make sure my impact and my voice….are as loud as yours would have been. I’ll make sure you aren’t forgotten….and your legacy continues.

Cory – Yours is a legacy of smiles….love…..laughter….fun….singing…..acting….silliness…..and so much more. Happy 33rd sweet boy! I thank God for allowing me to be your momma….for I’d rather live the rest of my life with a heart that aches with hurt because you aren’t here….than have a lifetime having never known you….or been your mom! You….are my bright, shining star! You are the one I see so brilliantly when I look to the heavens. Your light still shines just as brightly as it did when you were here with me!

Thank you, sweet boy, for loving me. For letting me love you is one of the greatest gifts I was given. Having you taken from me didn’t stop my ability to love you. Not at all….it actually made my love stronger…..made me stronger. I hate it. Honestly. Hate.it. But….my love for you, for your brothers, has never been taken from me. That…..can’t be taken from me. That I will have until my last breath on this earth. And….as I take that final breath on this earth…….I will open my eyes and be with you again….for eternity. And THAT….is what keeps me going. Knowing I WILL get to hug you, love one you….and see that smile….and hear your angelic voice….and sing POG with you…..for eternity!

That….makes me smile!! That….gives me hope. That fuels my heart to keep sharing….about you, your brothers…about Jesus and the hope he gives….and that….is enough. On this birthday, and everyday….that is what gets me through.

Happy Birthday Cory!!! Knowing you has changed my life for the better! I will celebrate you today! I will remember all the wonderful things about you and never let your memory fade! You are such a light to me sweet boy!! I can’t wait to see you again!

I could type all day….thoughts of you….memories and wishes. But for now I’ll sign off….knowing our conversations will continue and my love for you will also continue. Grief….continues….because you aren’t here to receive it. But….soon…..I’ll see you again.

All my love on this day and always! ~momma

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