pacific lutheran university
Sometimes they really do.
In talking with parents who lose a child, they sometimes share with me a moment of grace when they experience an event that gives them a sense of reconnection.
Here’s a true story that happened to a family eight years after losing their daughter.
One of our daughter Krista’s closest friends growing up was Heather Koller, a beautiful child who endured four bouts of cancer beginning at age six. Krista learned early about the fragility of life and internal strength from times with Heather, including tackling bicycle mountain climbs at cancer camp, figuring out fashionable junior-high ways to wear a wig, or learning to let go of impossible dreams as Heather’s once flexible ballet body lost strength. She also saw the value of treasuring each day.
After Heather graduation from Pacific Lutheran University, where her classmates selected her to be their Scandinavian Lucia Bride, cancer returned with a vengence. Shortly before she died, she said to her Mom Carol, “I will come to you when you least expect me.”
Almost eight years later, a box came in the mail. On the outside it said, “If you are the parents of Heather Koller, this is for you.”
“Because of what Heather had said to us, I was filled with joyful anticipation,” said Carol. “We had moved into a new town where no one knew Heather growing up, so for someone to acknowledge her was so rare.” Inside the box rested a glass kitchen jar with a cork and narrow pink, white, magenta ribbons around the neck. Pieces of fold-over paper filled the inside. With it came a card that said:
I was a girl in junior-high that Heather befriended. I was not part of the popular group and I was making very bad choices that weren’t good for me. Heather gave this jar to me to help me get through some very difficult times. I’ve made it, am happily married with two beautiful girls, and now I think it belongs to you.
Carol remembers being stunned. “Heather had never said a word to anyone about doing this. It was just a quiet gesture of love for this person. I took the lid off and realized that every piece of paper had been handwritten by Heather. I felt like I could just see her sitting at her desk carefully making each one.”
Carol read a few of them, but then stopped. She decided she’d rather savor these inspiring words from her daughter, one or two a day. In pink ink, probably written by Heather at age twelve or thirteen after she had been in years of cancer treatment, she wrote these encouraging words to her young friend.
Enjoy the little things in life; for one day you might look back and discover they were the big things.
Some say it’s holding on that makes you strong; sometimes it’s letting go.
Don’t be afraid to take a big step if one is indicated; you can’t cross a chasm in two small jumps.
Now and then Heather included biblical verses that her mom knew encouraged her daughter’s unusual strength of spirit, such as these words from the New Testament found in Phillipians 4:6-7:
Rejoice in the Lord always…the Lord is near; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
Eventually Carol wrote these all down in a book and gave the jar and writings away when a close college friend of Heather’s gave birth to a daughter and named her Heather. For a baby gift, Carol gave this jar of inspiration to Heather’s namesake. Now, Heather’s quiet gift as a child begins to inspire the life of another family many years later.
On this Valentines Day when we celebrate those we love, it’s fun to imagine that small creative acts of kindness can give joy to another’s life. Enduring love.
Have there been experiences when you felt especially reconnected to someone you have loved even after their death?
Please imagine these yellow roses from our garden as a gift to you today. Happy Valentines!