When a Father Grieves

I often write about my grief as a mother who lost her daughter, but today I am writing about a father’s grief. While Russ and I grieve together, we also grieve in our own ways. This is a long journey, friends.

Daddy and Kalkidan Whidbey

He couldn’t sleep.

A list, far too long for any one man to accomplish, scrolled through his mind. One task weighed not only on his mind, but on his heart.

Our summer was busy, with a family reunion, followed by a family vacation, followed by preparing for the upcoming semester. Then school began, not only for the kids, but for my professor husband.

An appointment had taken us north up the highway, past the site of our accident where the weeds and grass had grown so tall around the cross bearing Kalkidan’s name that it couldn’t be seen.

We felt terrible.

We put that cross there to remember our girl, and so people driving by would remember her too. But life is busy, and we had been gone, and grass grows quickly.

Our hearts were heavy.

That night, in the dark, he quietly left our bed and put on work clothes.

He took the essentials with him, the weed whacker and a mug of coffee, and drove north until he reached the cruel curve that took our daughter’s life.

The sun wasn’t up yet, but his headlamp gave him enough light to get started.

More than an hour later, the grass along that curve in the road was shorn short and Kalkidan’s cross could be seen clearly from either direction.

K cross curve of road

A sad task for this daddy to do for his daughter, but one of the only ones remaining.

He kept this precious time to himself until yesterday when we drove that highway again.

I sighed, “We really need to get up to Kalkidan’s cross and clear the grass and weeds away. I feel terrible about it.”

He quietly answered, “I already did.”

I envisioned a ¬†few feet of grass cut away, revealing the cross, but as we came to the curve in the road, I saw the labor of his love for our girl. The length of the entire curve, many yards long and many yards deep, was cut revealing Kalkidan’s cross with the orange bandana tied around it.

L cross tulips
spring 2016

He loved her so well then – and now.

I could see him in my mind, working along the side of the highway as the sun began to rise; making that place more beautiful for her.

And so we move through our sorrow and grief.

Thank you, friends, for walking with us.



To Be Sought and Found

It’s been a season of hard, of hearts that feel bruised and sadness that spills out of my eyes more often than I like.

Days pass and I hardly see Russ as we moved through schedules of work and school, homework and sports practices, the demands of our young crew and the needs of our older kids.

I don’t have to list more – you know it too well.

last checks on the car
last checks on the car

Our son, Isaiah, all of 21, packed everything he owns and moved to St. Louis yesterday.

We think we influence our children – and we do – but this boy made me a writer. At the age of 11, he built my first blog and pushed me to put down words for people to read.

I said goodbye to him, waving in the driveway, and when his car was out of view, I hugged Annarose and cried.

How to Share Difficult News With a Child

I didn’t attend medical school, but I listen closely to my daughter who did and my son who is currently in his third year. They often learn things that apply well to parenting children who experienced early trauma. This post on sharing difficult news with children is one of those lessons.



“Mom, you know what I learned from the chief resident today?”

My daughter, Hannah, was in medical school soaking up knowledge at a rate reserved for the young and intellectually curious.

She continued,

When you give a child hard news, you have to get down low so your heart is on the same level as theirs.

Even now, years later, I have not forgotten those words.

Grief as the Kids Go Back to School

There’s something I’ve been carrying in my heart for a few days and I need to say it now, because tomorrow is the first day of school and I need to greet it with a smile, be excited with my children, make them a special breakfast, and send them out the door with prayers and hugs.

Kalkidan should be here.

More than anything, she wanted to be a teenager and go to high school, where she planned to excel as an athlete despite her tiny size.


I’m deeply sad that tomorrow will not be her first day of high school – that she won’t walk through the doors with her sisters and friends, a bundle of nerves and excitement swirling in her stomach.

Claire will walk through the doors as a freshman without her – my twins, who weren’t twins, but shared the same grade and even the same best friend.

Kalkidan would have worn something bright and colorful, I’m sure, and possibly forgotten one detail that would have led to a flurry of activity just moments before rushing out the door.

We would have gathered in a circle, praying over the kids, and the moment we said, “Amen,” she would have burst from our arms and raced out the door, yelling, “Bye Mom, Bye Dad,” as she ran across the grass.

I can see her now.

I know that high school pales in comparison with heaven – many folks would compare it a little more to heaven’s alternative, but that doesn’t stop me from feeling deep grief that tomorrow was taken from us.

I’m wearing her Ethiopian cross necklace and keeping her close to my heart – it’s all I can do – and asking Jesus to be near.


Mom, Dad, Kalkidan

The One Thing You Should Never Say to A Grieving Mom

This post was originally published on Rage Against the Minivan.

The past two weeks brought sad news of the tragic loss of ¬†Hannah’s friends from Minnesota, followed by the death of a young man in the adoption community whose family shares many friends with us. These heartbreaking losses brought this post about the loss of our own child to mind and it seems a good time to share it. In times of sorrow, we may not have the perfect words, and that’s okay.

fall 2014 - my youngest six with Kalkidan in the middle
fall 2014 – my youngest six with Kalkidan in the middle

The morning was cold and it was snowing lightly; a half inch had accumulated on the ground when we left our house on our way to the ski resort atop the Idaho/Montana border.  Our daughter was going to visit friends for a few days and this was our meet up spot.

Living in north Idaho, driving in a little snow was nothing new to us. We left the rest of the family sleeping, settled our daughter in with her iPod and fleece blanket, and headed up the highway, travel mugs of coffee in our hands.

Forty-five minutes later we slowly rounded a curve and our car began to slide and pivot sideways. Early on the Saturday morning after Christmas, on that rural highway, we slid in front of the only oncoming car for miles around. In that moment, our lives changed forever.

If God is Good

The worship leader introduced the final song last Sunday saying that God is good and if we can truly grasp this truth, it will change how we view suffering in our lives and in the world.

We were sitting in the front row and as I looked down the line of my children, I thought, “She is speaking to a tough crowd.”

Right in front of her were children who have faced unspeakable suffering – orphaned, abused, torn from their parents, witnesses of¬†horrifying tragedies, neglected, starved, their sister traumatically killed in an accident, and so much more that I can’t even write about.

Can my children easily say that God is good?

Can I?