We decided not to do anything “Christmasy”, like look at all of the beautiful lights in the Texas hill country, while Matt and Mattie were gone to Ukraine. We would save all Christmas traditions and activities until we could be together as a family. Matt and Mattie arrived home December 22, with family excitement that we would all be together again. We began making Christmas plans, which began with attending the local Christmas Eve-Eve service, which is such a lovely time of worshipping our Lord of lords.
Immediately following the church service Dec. 23, we went to look at the lights at our local outdoor light festival, which is our family tradition. It was around 8:30PM (just minutes after after our arrival to the outdoor light park) when I pulled out my phone to take a photo of the kids together at the Trail of Lights.
When I pulled my phone out, I saw that I’d missed several calls and texts. My older brother’s text immediately caught my eye, as it read, “Call me ASAP, ASAP, ASAP, ASAP, ASAP.” My heart immediately started racing, knowing something was wrong.
I listened to my brother’s voice mail, before making any calls, because it was such a loud environment that I didn’t think I would be able to hear anyone. My brother’s message was simply asking me if I had talked to Mom that day. (He didn’t realize what had happened when he left that message, he was simply inquiring because my mom hadn’t made it out to our ranch, like she had planned, so he was wondering if she’d stopped by my house or if I’d talked to her.) Then I listened to my dad’s voice mail, which was S-H-O-C-K-I-N-G. In his panic-stricken, shocked voice, he notified me that my little brother had found my mom dead in her recliner at our childhood home in Boerne, where she spent much of her time. My dad was being driven to the house by a friend.
SHOCK. Trembling. Tears. Bawling. I frantically called each of my siblings and my dad. We were all call-waiting with one another, each of us in a state of instant grief and utter shock, not even realizing what all was being said, not knowing what to do, or how to do it. We all felt so horrible for my little brother because he was the one who found her, called 911, tried to administer CPR, then waited and completed the process with EMT’s, police, the funeral home representatives, etc. Horrible, just horrible.
Ann Rolling, co-founder of Emily Ann Theatre, saw me as our family rushed away from the Trail of Lights just moments after our arrival. Ann stopped to pray with me. Her mother passed away Dec. 23 several years ago, and she lost her daughter in December several years ago as well (the Emily Ann Theater was founded in memory of her daughter, Emily Ann). Ann said, “Lorraine, the phrase, ‘Home for the holidays’, has a whole new meaning when you lose a loved one during this season. Your mom is truly HOME for the holidays.” Ann prayed over Matt and I, then we loaded into the van and drove away, never completing our mission to look at the lights.
Life went into whatever that season is called when one is tossed into sudden grief and shock. We were *supposed* to have our annual Immel Christmas Eve celebration at our house at 11:30AM, but instead we spent Dec. 24 at the funeral home, picking out burial plots, selecting a casket, and taking care of urgent tasks that one must address the day after a loved one dies.
We went to church Christmas day, then spent the afternoon at Matt’s parent’s house. We didn’t do Christmas at our home, as we had decided we would have our family Christmas Dec. 31. Mattie mentioned to me that while she thought this would be her worst Christmas ever, she was surprised to discover this was one of her best Christmases ever because there was nothing to take the focus off of Jesus. Worshiping Jesus on Christmas Day was wonderful.
My sister and I, along with my dad and brothers, spent Dec. 26 taking care of the rest of the funeral details. There’s so much to do when planning a funeral, from purchasing the burial plot, casket, burial dress/outfit for my mom, picking out hymns, order of service, casket spray, writing the obituary, putting together the bulletin for the service…gosh, there’s just lots to do in a very short amount of time.
Dec. 27 was the visitation, and Dec. 28 was the funeral. Sad times for everyone. I was able to visit with my mom’s cardiologist, as well as the nurse for her pacemaker doctor, and they did an interrogation of the pacemaker, which gives a detailed report of all heart activity. It was determined that my mom died of ventricular tachycardia, a condition where the heart races, which is the opposite of what my mom’s previous heart issues had been. She died a very quick and peaceful death at the age of 67. While we all wish she had been granted many more years on this earth, we know she is now worshipping Jesus face to face, with her brown-eyed granddaughter by her side. Joy. Pure joy, for them.
I want to thank everyone who attended my mom’s funeral and/or visitation. So many of you went out of your way to support our family, and we are grateful. Here are a couple of photos taken the day of my mom’s funeral, at the cemetery:
Selah trying to play peek-a-boo.
Adoption reality set in Dec. 29, my first day to be home since my mom went to heaven. Our Ukrainian adoption facilitator reminded me of all of the adoption paperwork that I needed to get done, changed, updated, etc. in order to adopt our two newest sons, who have Down syndrome. It was a whirlwind of a day, getting tons of paperwork taken care of. It almost felt like starting the adoption paper chase over again, but the hard work is so very worth it.
I spent Dec. 30 getting all of the new paperwork notarized and apostilled, then sent via FedEx overnight to Ukraine. Everything was supposed to arrive in Ukraine Jan. 5 (more time required due to the holidays), but I received word this morning that our paperwork arrived today, Jan. 3! Only God!
With that news came the news that we need to be in Kiev, Ukraine by this Monday, January 9!!! I will be traveling with my husband on this trip. We’re both so excited to meet the boys, in fact, our entire family is waiting with eager anticipation of their arrival. Meanwhile, we’re trying to transform our home into a safe and fun place for two new little boys (both age 6, but the size of infants), who most likely don’t know how to sit, crawl, walk, or eat solid foods yet due to spending 6 years in an orphanage. We’re gathering toys, climbers, high chairs, car seats, etc., trying to prepare for their arrival. The Lord is blessing us abundantly with His provisions.
There’s much to gather and much work to be done, but our God is so very faithful. He is meeting all our needs, and beyond, and I know He will continue to equip us. While I thought my mom would be helping us with the boys (as well as while Matt and I are in Ukraine), I know He has a plan to provide help and support, according to His good and perfect will. We praise Him for all He has done and continues to do.
Blessed be the name of the Lord.