This is my friend Jenny, pictured above. She was killed in a tragic act of domestic violence 6 years ago today. Jenny had warm brown-green eyes, and a fantastic sense of humor. She loved the Hokies, and loved the color purple. She said on Facebook once that she wanted “Flashlight” by Parliament played at her funeral, and I think she really meant it! She was just that cool. She was spunky and witty. She was a personal trainer, and had an awesome, muscular figure that could knock your socks off. She also worked with persons with disabilities, helping them find employment. They loved her. Most of all, though, she was a dedicated mother to her two lovely boys. I will never understand why they had to lose their mother at around ages 4 and 16. At her funeral, I placed a purple crystal and silver bracelet donned with the words “Mother” on her wrist. The bracelet was made for me by my own dear mother, and I wanted Jenny to carry it with her on her Journey. I wanted her to know that she was a fabulous mother and friend.
Jenny was a strong woman, both physically and mentally.
When I look back over the past 7 or so years, it is easy to wonder where such strength comes from. Having, in those years, lost a stillborn baby due to a genetic abnormality (on the heels of an additional miscarriage), a father to cancer, a grandfather to age, a brother to suicide, two friends to a murder-suicide, and many other friends/loved ones along the way, I sometimes ponder this…
When I lost my baby girl, Jenny sent me an e-mail that I printed at the time, that I still have in a memory box to this day. It said simply, “Carol, I love you.” Her words brought me comfort. They were simple, and concise, but just the words that I needed to hear.
Truth is, at one point I literally had a nervous breakdown (within a year) after Jenny died. I crumbled under the weight of all that had happened to me collectively. It was so bad, that for the first time in my life, I landed in the hospital. I had quite literally temporarily lost my mind, having lost all sense of reality. The stress was just that bad. There seemed nothing left to do but escape. But….somehow I found my strength again. Much of it was due to the example that Jenny’s inner strength had given to me.
Again, where does that emotional strength come from, that she modeled so well? If we are to endure this tragedy, and others, and thrive as she would want us to, we must get in touch with it!
“Lord I will lift mine eyes to the hills…”
When all is dark and your soul feels lost and you feel you have much in common with Job ….
“Knowing my help is coming from You…”
When the world seems like chaos and you are wondering what’s the point of it all…
“Your peace you give me in time of the storm…”
When a diagnosis overwhelms you, and you’re reading the statistics concerning others who struggle with your illness, seeing the worst, and wondering, “Will that be me?”
“You are the source of my strength….”
When the way seems all uphill and you are fainting, when you feel that you have nothing left within you…
“You are the strength of my life…”
When all seems lost and you feel like you have no one to turn to, no one who understands…
“I lift my hands in total praise to You…”
When this is the case, just hear the words and melody of Richard Smallwood’s “Total Praise”, quoted above and below… Please oh please play the song at the end of the blog. Please oh please don’t skip it. I am quite sure that Jenny put it in my heart and mind to share with you. Strength like hers can only come from Above, and she has so much to teach us.
When I listen to this song, I remember that I would do it all over again, just to have another moment with her, and others whom I have lost. That I am lucky to have simply known her, and them. That she, and they, are always, always with me.
She visits me in my dreams and reminds me that love never ends, never fails. That she is always there. That she is always near. If I listen closely, I can hear Jenny’s voice whispering to us, “carry on …”.
Then I realize that she is pointing towards our God who is awesome. He is the source, He is the strength, He is the way out of the chasm! He is the Light in the darkness, the Beacon in the storm, the Rescuer, the Conqueror, the Helper, the Doctor, Nurse, Mother, Father, Brother, and Friend. He is the Author and Perfector of Jenny, whom I will never forget, and I will give Him praise.
My Lord, you are my world. Thank you for giving me this dear one, if only for a moment in time…
“Ah-ah-ah-men, Ah-ah-ah-ah-men, Amen”.
In memory of Jenny Vaughn-Bates. May God eternally bless you and your precious boys.
See you at the Crossroads, my friend….
(Please play the song below, you’ll thank me later!)
Words, lyrics, and song, in quotations above, by Richard Smallwood. 1996. “Total Praise”. A simply awesome song. Amen.