Dawn Hankins

Pencil Shavings

Dawn Hankins is a staff writer for the Times-Gazette.

Holiday grief: For such a time as this

Sunday, December 16, 2018

When newspaper staffers write a series of articles on a particular subject, we can rarely fathom its potential outreach. That was the case with me recently, following a series on "grief during the holidays."

I think this email, sent to me this week and written by Alberta Parks of Warren, Michigan, is beautiful and meant to be shared.

Mary Elkins, to which the email was directed, was the subject of my "grief" article which ran Dec. 2, in the Life and Leisure section. With Mrs. Parks' permission, I'm sharing her email in response to Mrs. Elkins' story.

"Dear Mary Elkins,

"My sister, Lynda Phillips of Shelbyville, mailed me the article about you that came out in the Times-Gazette.

"I really enjoyed reading it and I identify with you with everything you said in the article.

"I am Alberta Parks and I live in Warren, Michigan. My husband went home to be with the Lord on Oct. 30, after 8 years of recovering from a major bleeds stroke. I am 86, but the Lord gave me the strength daily to be his caregiver all those years.

"Claude had pneumonia many times and was in the hospital and then to the nursing home for rehab. You know the story of how it is. Pneumonia finally got him as his lungs were so infected.

"My heart is broken and life will never be the same. We were married 65 years and I thank God for all those years we had together. I have 2 sons, 5 grandchildren and 6 great ones with twins. They are all supportive of me. We plan to have Christmas (20 of us) on Christmas Eve as usual as life has to go on.

"I attend Ambassador Baptist Church in Royal Oak. So, now when I go, I manage to sit in Claude's seat which makes me feel closer to him. I have been overwhelmed with paperwork but I am doing okay with getting things done. I am thankful to the Lord that I have no depression at all as I have accepted the Lord taking Claude on to Heaven; he was 89. When I wake up in the mornings, I get busy with life as usual but he is always on my mind.

"We had two funerals for Claude -- one here in Michigan and then one in Lynchburg, where our roots are. He is buried in The Lynchburg Cemetery. I have ordered a saddle for his monument as we had that up already but of course I can't visit his grave like you can visit your husband's.

"Thanks for reading my e-mail and thanks for your article.

"Here's wishing you and your family a Merry Christmas and a Healthy, Happy 2019."

The sincerity of her letter describes someone who's "been there." But I think her candor of what it's really like to be alone

at the holidays after decades of marriage is quite profound.

The "grief during the holidays" series was particularly close to my heart. The words in Mrs. Parks' article which really touched me were: "I can identify with you in everything you said." She honestly can identify with Mrs. Elkins, where many of us cannot.

I think about the church friends from my years in ministry who have suffered either the loss of a spouse or a child. You never know how grief will feel, that is, until you've lost immediate family.

I've seen grief dwindle some people down to sickness. I've witnessed others deal with their sadness with surprising strength.

It warms the cockles of my heart that this kind elderly lady shared with another in her time of suffering. For it is when we reach out to someone else, especially in the midst of our own sadness, that we experience the true meaning of Christmas.

Such openness is what has made the GriefShare program so successful. New classes will begin soon at Trinity Lutheran Church on Wilson Avenue in Tullahoma. I highly recommend for those suffering loss this year.

In this county, some people have experienced having their friends pass quickly in the day or night. Others may currently be praying and or waiting by the bedside of a terminally ill loved one.

Whatever the case, please know you are not alone. I have enjoyed this series and Mrs. Parks' email made it even more special.

I will think of many grieving, particularly Mrs. Parks, this Christmas when I say my prayer of blessing. She has exemplified the true meaning of Christ-mas.

Merry Christmas to you, Mrs. Parks. Happy New Year!

--Dawn Hankins is a staff writer for the Times-Gazette.

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