The Gift-Giver

How many times have I heard or said “it’s better to give than to receive” or “it’s not the gift, it’s the thought that counts”.  During this season of giving gifts these things have been so fiercely on my mind.

Michael was a great gift-giver.  He gave great gifts.  Over the years he gave me jewelry, furs, cars, jewelry, vacations, homes, jewelry and a jewelry box (which he said he spent the rest of his life trying to fill). Did I mention jewelry? (A few days ago while watching some old home movies of Christmas 20 years ago, the kids saw Michael get up and get a box from under the Christmas tree and hand it to me.  They all immediately knew from just the paper and the bow that it was the signature wrapping of one of our local jewelers.)

His gifts were always far more elaborate than I expected or would have bought for myself.  One year we talked about getting a little car to leave at the beach house for when we were down there.  I was thinking a little VW bug to ride along the beach highway.  Michael took me to the Jaguar dealership.

His gifts were thoughtful.  Like the Christmas I needed a new coat. And he bought me one.  No, actually he bought me four.  Four fur coats that year.

His gifts were often unexpected.  Like the Christmas he told me I would be taking Christy to London and Paris the following summer.

This year there were no packages under the tree from Michael.  But it wasn’t the gifts wrapped in paper and bows that were the best or most unforgettable gifts he gave me.  The best gifts he gave were given daily – the things that change you over time and help you to grow into someone better than who you started out to be.

He gave me the gift of time, almost 40 years of spending time with me, listening to me and making me a priority in his life.

He gave me the gift of permission – permission to be me, without fear of losing him.

He gave me the gift of confidence by believing in me more than I believed in myself and telling me I could do things that I didn’t believe (and am still not sure) that I could do.

He gave me the gift of forgiveness when I was wrong, when I didn’t support him as much as I should or when I fell short of what could have been.

He gave me the gift of romance by making me feel loved and desired.

He gave me the gift of children – three of the most wonderful children who, in spite of our failings and shortcomings, have become three of the most awesome adults I know.

He gave me the gift of generosity by never giving just enough but always exceeding what would be expected or assumed.

He gave me the gift of laughter, which stills returns when I remember all his shenanigans and goofiness.

It’s incredible to look back at all he gave me. But I believe you cannot give what you don’t have. The reason he was able to give all these things was because he himself received these things – from his mom and dad as they raised him, but also from God who so freely gives to us out of His abundance and His love. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father. (James 1:17)

So, this Christmas there were no gifts in wrapping paper from Michael.  But I didn’t miss the gifts.  I missed the gift-giver.


I’ve read about and been told about the five stages of grief.  Apparently these stages are universal and experienced by people from all walks of life.  They are usually listed as denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. My own experience tells me that I move back and forth through these stages, in not necessarily the above order and for various and indeterminate periods of time.

But there’s another stage that no one seems to mention.  For me it is the stage of longing.  You can read lots of books and articles on the other stages, but nobody tells you about the longing.   Right now I’m stuck, rooted in a stage of longing.  I’m longing for all those things that I had when I was his wife.  And it’s more than just a wish.  It’s a physical ache.  I long to feel his arms around me.  And I long for the sweet kisses and tender words that married couples share.  (Geez, I’m beginning to sound like a country song.)

I don’t know if the longing started in my heart first and then spread to my thoughts.  Or did it start in my mind and overflow to my heart?  I just know that my recent days have been preoccupied with this longing.  I don’t know if others that have lost their spouse feel this way too.  (Or perhaps even those who have separated or divorced.)  I only know what I’m going through.

I know God promises to provide all I need.  And I know I’ve trusted Him for safety and finances and my kids and my eternity. So I suppose I’ll trust Him with this too.  But this feels like a really big one to trust Him with.   I keep praying, asking Him to take it away from my mind and my obsessive thoughts.  I don’t know if this is another stage to move through, or if this is what my life will now look like.  I can’t imagine feeling like this always, but I can’t imagine anything ever making this longing go away.

PS – By now I’m sure my kids (and probably a few friends) are quite embarrassed by this post.  Sorry guys, this is who your mother is.

Do You Hear Me Now?

Before Michael passed away I think I just assumed that people in heaven probably didn’t really keep up with what was happening on earth.  I think mostly I hadn’t given it too much thought.  I mean, after all, there would be no more mourning or sadness, so they must just be in some sort of divinely ignorant state of not knowing what we were doing, right?

But in the last months, the kids and I have had several discussions wondering about this and I’ve done some reading to try to understand what the truth on this subject is.  And I think I’ve changed my mind.

There are of course many references to heaven in the bible (though, by count, I think there are more references to hell).  As I set out to read through some of the passages I discovered several things.  First, all those references I remember about there being no more tears or pain or crying refer to the “new” heaven — the eternal heaven that will come one day when Jesus returns again and takes His place of rule on earth.  But that heaven isn’t here yet, and that heaven isn’t where Michael is right now.

The present heaven is where Michael is right now and there are actually fewer details about that heaven in the Bible.  But I think I have been able to understand a few things.  First, the present heaven is a real place.  When God gave directions in the Old Testament for the tabernacle to be built, He said it was to be a copy of the real tabernacle which is in heaven.  So heaven is a real physical place with real physical things there.

The other things I’ve learned about the present heaven come mainly from two passages – the parable Jesus tells about Lazarus and the rich man in Luke 16 and the account of the martyrs in Revelation 6.  In both of these passages, we see people in heaven that are conscious of their surroundings.  They are in communication with God and each other and they are aware of things happening on earth.  The martyrs can see that their deaths have not yet been avenged.  And they are even crying out because of it, an indication that they are aware of the state of things on earth.

This has made me change my thinking about what Michael, and others in heaven, are aware of.  I now feel more confident that they are aware of what’s happening in our lives here.  Which means that when Andrew preaches, I believe Michael is watching and listening and very proud.  And when Emily graduates next week I believe he’ll be grinning from ear to ear and cheering from the best seat in the house.  Does this mean that he sees and knows everything all the time?  Probably not, and I’m not sure how all that works out.  After all, he’s in the presence of God so I think that gives him a better understanding of things, but that doesn’t make him God.

It gives me comfort to know he’s watching.  I want him to see how wonderful the kids are.  I want him to hear us laughing at the memories we have of him and our family times together.  I want him to see one day when we have grandkids.

I also do think that those in heaven probably have a fuller understanding of some things than we do here on earth.  This is especially healing for me. You see, when my dad died last May, he died angry with me.  He was very upset with some decisions I made regarding his care and thought that I was trying to hurt him and take advantage of him.  I am hopeful that now, whether by fuller revelation or by being able to ask God in person, he understands that there was no attempt to hurt him or steal from him, but only to protect and help him.  And with that new understanding I’m sure that there are no longer any hard feelings between us.

One last thing, while I do feel confident that believers in heaven are aware of what’s happening here, there’s no indication in these passages that they are able to communicate with us.  In fact, the rich man who goes to hell in Luke 16 is told specifically that his family still alive on earth cannot be warned of his end by someone from the dead.  Just a thought for Teresa Caputo, John Edward and others who make such claims.  I’d love to know what you think …

P.S. I highly recommend the book Heaven by Randy Alcorn. It does a great job looking at both the present heaven and the eternal heaven to come.

Michael Is No Angel

Several weeks ago I wrote about the many things that people have said to me since Michael’s death.   There was one thing I didn’t mention because I felt like it deserved a discussion all its own.

Numerous people in recent months have told me and my kids that Michael is now an angel in heaven, watching over us, our guardian angel, etc.   I know all these comments were said out of compassion and a desire to provide us with comfort.  But let’s be clear.   MICHAEL IS NO ANGEL!

Michael was a man.  He still is a man, though he now resides in heaven rather than here with me.  Just because he is no longer alive on earth doesn’t mean he’s somehow become an angel.  And I’m so thankful!  Let me explain …

God created angels.  He created them before he created Adam and Eve, before original sin, the Flood and the nation of Israel.  There’s lots to be learned in Scripture about angels, but for time’s sake I’ll just mention a few things about angels.  They are almost always mentioned as males.  They do not die.  They are spirit beings and have great power.  And they do not have the power to reproduce.

Also I can tell you that God obviously created angels with the same freedom of choice that He blessed man with.  I know that because the Bible records the fall of angels, led by one in particular, Lucifer.  Lucifer and his followers apparently decided they would usurp God’s place and elevate themselves above Him – the sin of pride.  As a result God banished them from heaven.  Interestingly, God did not provide for their salvation.  In fact Scripture tells us the fallen angels will spend eternity in the lake of fire (hell).

Then along comes man – Adam and Eve actually.  God creates them with the freedom to choose also.  And what do they do?  They decide they know better than God – the sin of pride.  Sound familiar?  Yet God, in His infinite love and mercy, immediately has a plan for their redemption.  He decides to send Jesus (who is in fact Himself, God) as a sacrifice so that our relationship with Him can be restored.  Rather than banish us, God moves in love for us to provide a remedy for our rebellion.

So, back to Michael.  Michael is no angel.  God created him a man. And dying on earth doesn’t change him to an angel.  Praise God Michael is a man!  Because he’s a man he fell short of God’s plan and sinned.  Because he’s a man he made the decision to accept this act of God’s love to cover his sins so he could have a restored relationship with God.  Because he’s a man he continues to live – now he just lives in the continual presence of God rather than here on earth.

Thank You!  Thank You God!  Thank You for making Michael a man!

Michael is a man.  He’s MY man.  He is no angel.  But he is a saint!