What can you say about a daughter? They are the end and the beginning of everything. Alicia was an angel sent to me by God. We are here today to celebrate her life and her gifts to us. At age 22, I was told I could not have children. But I did not accept that. I pursued doctors who could give me hope….and I found one in NYC. I went to NYC and had surgery so that I could have a child....and I finally did…2 years later. Alicia truly was a miracle baby! I was told I would never carry her full term and yet I did. I was never supposed to have a child. I had many surgeries to have children…but Alicia was the only one. And I am so happy to have been blessed with her! She truly was a gift from God. I was lucky to have her for 26 years. And she was so happy…so loved!
While it is difficult to see her go, let me assure you that she is in a much better place. I was blessed to be with my mom when she crossed over. I was given the miracle of seeing her go to her loved ones. Two cousins were with me and we all witnessed this miracle. Mom wanted to go to someone and she had a huge smile on her face! I know that she was there when Alicia crossed over…and she will be there when it is time for me to cross over…as well as Alicia.
It is difficult to say goodbye. I miss her so much already. Alicia lived her life to the fullest and gave everyone and everything her all and all.
B. Stanley wrote this about success:
To laugh often and much;
To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children;
To earn the appreciation of honest critics and to endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty and to find the best in others;
To leave the world a bit better by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition;
To know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived – this is to be successful.
Alicia was the most successful woman I have ever known….loved by all whose paths she crossed.
We can all hear her laugh right now, see the sparkle in her eyes, and the love in her heart. She had it all! She got to do everything she ever wanted: golf, finishing in 4th place in the NCAA, her PhD, her camping, her animals, and most of all - her wonderful friends!
In the book “Tuesdays with Morrie”, Morrie was asked by his student how to find a meaningful life. Morrie responded:
“Devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.”
Alicia’s life was truly meaningful to all of us around her! We will all miss her spunk, determination, and love! Let us remember her in celebration for the gift she was to us. Look for her in the setting sun, the stillness of the night, the stars in the sky, the joy of a newborn, a kitten, whatever brings you joy and peace. You will find her there. She is in all of us and I am so thankful for the gift of her life – even though it was not long enough. I have been truly blessed by her presence and love. She has made me into the person that I am today. She is very much a part of me and I will carry her forever in my heart until it is my turn to follow her in her journey.
Alicia would not like us to be crying for her loss. She wants us to be happy and joyful in our lives and to remember her in every way. This is what she would want:
Do not stand at my
Grave and weep,
I am not there,
I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain;
I am the gentle autumn’s rain
When you awake in the morning’s hush, I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft star that shines at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there; I did not die.
I love you Alicia. May you rest in peace and find eternal happiness – my little angel.
Comments by Amy Strand, one of Alicia's best and dearest friends:
1. Ready Whip serves as a nice cat treat.Â They love that stuff!Â Just spray some on a plate and watch them go crazy.
2. A bunch of 0â€™s and 1â€™s can make a pretty neat video game, if you put them in the right order, of course.
3. Golfing is a dangerous sport.Â The first (and last) time Alicia took me to the driving range, I got whacked in the arm by a golf ball.Â That thing left a bruise for days!
4. She had a great stuffed pepper recipe passed on to her from her â€œgramma.â€Â I’d be more than happy to pass it on again if anyone is interested.
5. Seagulls LOVE stale buns.Â Just watch out when they dive-bomb you on the beach in order to get them!
6. A banana makes a good microphone.Â (I can show you the picture!)
7. â€œPig Bearâ€ makes a great sleeping companion.Â (I wish I could show you a picture.Â It was so cute!)
8. You shouldnâ€™t be a â€œlazy bum.â€
9. Itâ€™s fun to be a â€œcrazy bum.â€
10. The Goo Goo Dolls rock!Â I remember her listening to them all of the time during freshman year at Gustavus.Â They had great staying power as Alicia was interested in seeing them perform with the Counting Crows at Red Rocks this year.
11. Raw fish is actually delicious.Â She introduced me to the world of sushi while in Florida.Â She was nice and let me start out with the California roll.
12. Disneyworld really is a magical placeâ€”even if youâ€™re 21 years old!
13. Burger King makes the best chicken sandwich (the long one, not the round one–this is important).
14. Donâ€™t trust the people working at the lotion stands in the mall.Â We were at Colorado Mills mall when Alicia saw the lotion stand and said, â€œWatch out!Â They steal your hands!â€
I’m only getting started.Â There’s so much that Lishy taught me.Â As you can see, she was always up for some fun.Â Â I hope we can all take that to heart and have a little fun every day in honor of Alicia.Â I’ll love you forever, Lishy.
Alicia was the most priceless gifts from God that I have ever received. I will never forget her beautiful face, her wonderful laugh, her loving heart. I could see all of that in her friends and the love that they had for her. I will always cherish the memories of her life.
The beginning of the book about Alicia and our path through grief:
Conversations in Grief:
The Journey from the Darkness Into the Light of Joy
This book is being written by grieving mothers who have lost at least one child before their time. We are traveling on a grief journey that has no end. We wish to honor the lives of our children by sharing with other bereaved parents our journey. We hope to give other grieving parents support and hope for the future. Nothing will ever replace our lost child…no matter how many children we have, no matter how many grandchildren we have, no matter how many family members we have. Each child is an individual and holds a very special place in our hearts. Nothing can ever replace the love we have for each and every child in our lives.
Grief is often described in stages. But we have found that grief does not work that way. Grief comes at us in many ways and in many forms. One moment you will feel fine and the next moment tears will be streaming down your cheeks. Our grief is totally unpredictable, comes without warning, and never truly goes away. We learn to live with our grief…to embrace it and the lessons we learn. We can choose to be bitter or we can choose to allow our grief to take us to a new level of living, loving, and learning. It truly is a choice. There are so many times when the demons of grief will pin us down and make us so despondent we do not want to go on. But we can choose to not let “grief” win. Our friends and our faith will help us to overcome those demons. This book has been written to give you the support you need when those demons come and to give you hope for the future. It won’t be the future that you had envisioned, but it will be a future filled with growth and joy. The bereaved moms who have contributed to this book want you to know that we hold you in our arms, holding you up, and we will be by your side on this most difficult journey. You are NEVER alone. We will always be with you.
I. Chapter One: The Stages of Grief
There are many books on the stages of grief. This book is not being written following those guidelines. It is being written by those of us who live with grief day in and day out. Since our children have died, we have experienced loneliness, hopelessness, anger, acceptance, questioning, numbness, and sometimes bartering. And all of these stages of grief can come at any time. There is no order for it.
My story: Alicia: My only child, Alicia, was killed in a freak accident while hiking in Alamosa, Colorado. She and her cousins, her aunt and uncle were simply going on a short hike to see a waterfalls before they were to embark on their long hike. On the way to the waterfalls, a young man was hiking on a trail above my daughter. He accidentally slipped and kicked some rocks in the process. He yelled out “Rocks!” but either Alicia didn’t hear him or she responded in the wrong way. Regardless, the rocks hit her in the head and she was killed instantly. Each loss is unique but no matter what, the pain is as just as unbearable as the next loss. Some of us have lost our children through accidents, others through illness, others through murder, others through suicide, others through SIDS, and others never got the chance to meet their child. Each is unique and just as painful as the next.
For me, I met Alicia’s death in total disbelief. She was killed at noon but I did not find out about her death until 11 pm that night. No one bothered to contact me. Only through a mutual friend of my ex and myself, did I get a clue that there was something wrong. At 11 pm, I finally got a hold of my ex and asked him what was going on. His words were “We lost our little girl today”. I knew exactly what he meant. I had had premonitions of her death for years. I had rehearsed my response so many times in my head. The words simply flowed out of my mouth just like I had heard them in my head so many times before. I threw the phone down and screamed “NO! NO! NO! Please tell me it isn’t true!” My heart broke instantly! I had no idea what to do, so I called my girlfriend and told her. I was most definitely in a state of shock. She came over to my house immediately. In the meantime, I tried to call Colorado…. but for some reason, I could not get through. So, I finally called 911. And then I called my pastor. He was a Godsend. I don’t think I could have survived that night without both my good friend and my pastor. My pastor told me that God did NOT take her. Instead when she fell, He scooped her up in His gentle arms and took her to Heaven. Even now, two years later, the tears are streaming down my cheeks. The pain never goes away.
I wrote this last year…it still holds true each and every day:
The Tape Player
The tape player
Plays over and over
In my mind
It repeats the pain
It repeats the loss
The fear rises up yet again
Trying so hard to protect her
Feeling the sinking in my stomach
When I hear the words “we lost our little girl today”
The screams of anguish,
The cries of NO! NO! NO!
The sinking feeling that comes
With the death of your child
It comes and goes like the tides of the sea
It washes over your soul and fills
You with an unknown fear
It hits you in the pit of your stomach
And it never relents
I struggle with burying my child
It consumes my thoughts always
A mother should never have to bury her child
And the fear continues to overcome my senses
Panic and anxiety are now my constant companions
Praying for the day that I will once again
Hold my little girl in my arms.
The police came shortly after I called. They asked about the situation and they thought that perhaps it wasn’t true…that we needed to check it out. They called Colorado. There was nothing reported. They continued to investigate. In the meantime, my pastor came over. He and my friend drove me to the local hospital. They thought I was going to kill myself right then and there. I met with the doctor and we finally got back to my house at 2 a.m. The doctor told me to take lorazpam for the anxiety. Unbeknownst to me, the Dr. came to the funeral. She left a beautiful card and remembered Alicia on her first angel date. I was truly touched by her compassion.
Shortly after I got home, the coroner from Alamosa County called me to confirm my daughter’s death. He apologized profusely for the way the whole situation was handled. She, indeed, had been killed by falling rocks. It was not a rumor…it was true …to my heart’s dismay. At 3 AM, I finally tried to get to sleep. I was so tired that I finally fell asleep.
The next day was Sunday. News traveled fast and I was visited by many friends. I cannot even remember who came….they all signed a list so that I could know who had stopped by. My cousin drove up from Iowa. Little did she know we would be on an airplane to Denver the next morning. Even though I was in a state of shock, I still managed to make the plane reservations and the connections needed to get to my daughter. When I arrived in Denver, my cousin and his wife took my cousin and me to dinner and we then crashed at their place. It is now Monday night. On Tuesday, we went to the funeral home to make the “arrangements”. I asked repeatedly to see my daughter but they continually told me that she wasn’t ready. I also wanted into her condo. I just wanted to “feel” her again. Her cats were there….everything we ever did together was there. So by the end of the day, I finally gained access to her condo.
On Wednesday, we went to the funeral home and made all of the final arrangements and I finally got to see my daughter. She looked so perfect. So angelic. So beautiful. But she was “gone”. And my heart broke yet again. Little did I know that my heart would break millions of times again and again since her death. I had knitted her a prayer shawl…that she didn’t want. I draped it over her coffin….it was so beautiful. I gave it to the man she was to most likely marry. I couldn’t bear to bury it with her. She was cremated….and she would never know that it was there. I felt it was better for her to see it with her boyfriend.
On Thursday, we drove to the cemetery where they planned on burying the ashes. The moment we drove through the gates, my gut told me that this was NOT the place to bury her remains! So, I decided to take my half of her ashes home with me. Right now, as I am writing this, her ashes sit on my dresser. When it is my time to die, I will be cremated and our ashes together will be placed in the crypt where my parents are buried. It is what I feel in my heart.
Friday, we had the service at the golf course where she had worked. They planted a tree in her memory there. She was a scratch golfer and was much loved by all at the golf course where she worked. She had this gopher head cover from Jasper, Canada. And almost every time she played golf, the head cover would fall off her golf club. She was so loved by the patrons that they all wanted that silly gopher head cover for their clubs. Well the golf course didn’t have them so they had to special order them! What an impact Alicia had on everyone!
For the next few months I was in a state of shock and disbelief. Within 6 weeks of her death, I was back to teaching in Minnesota. I shared with my students that my only child had been killed. They were a most gracious and loving group of students I have ever encountered. They took me under their wings and they carried me through the year.
But unfortunately the shock wears off and reality sets in. I wrote this one time when “reality” came for a visit:
Reality hits hard and has no remorse
It hits you in your gut
And you feel pain you never thought you could handle
It overwhelms you and knocks you off of your feet
You ask “Why?”
Even though you know there are no answers.
Reality kicks you when you are down
You keep hoping that things really are not what they are
And then you realize...yet again…. the truth of what happened
There is no escape
There is no place to hide
Reality finds you in the hidden recesses of your heart
It has no hesitations
It spares you no pain
It hits you hard
It makes you realize you have lost everything that ever mattered to you
And yet, again, you ask “why?”
There are no answers.
Reality rears its ugly head
And it spits at you
It laughs at you
It squeezes your heart
It forces tears from your eyes
And it never ends
It fights Hope
It twists Hope’s arm
Reality does not want Hope to win
They are at constant odds with each other
Hope fights to win
But Hope has eternity on her side
Hope is stronger than reality
In the end, Hope will be the victor
Faith accompanies Hope…. and arms Hope
With the power to win.
Where is my Hope?
I search endlessly
Only to find empty arms and an empty heart
Reality follows me everywhere. I cannot escape it. Little things will jog my memory and the feelings will flood my soul. It cannot be avoided. It must be met head on…directly…like in battle. And the only way to win is for us to join hands, hold onto each other, and have faith in God.