Wednesday, May 6, 2015


From the book "Broken Open," by Elizabeth Lesser. 

"In our sleep, pain, which cannot forget, 
falls drop by drop upon the heart, 
until, in our own despair, against our will,
comes wisdom through the awful grace of God."
~ Aeschylus

Mary Ann "Brainerd" Held

We sent her with a secret tucked in the pocket of her jeans.  For reasons, one might never imagine.  We retold the story, over and over again.  It was fitting that it was told at her funeral, by my cousin Rob.  To me, it epitomizes who she was.

When growing up, my Mom often said Grandpa Brainerd was very strict.  At meal time, you and your 3 sisters, and 2 brothers, had better show up on time.  

It was my Mom's younger sister, given the job of going off in search of my Mom when dinner time neared.  Off she'd run, looking in all the usual places.

But then there was that one time.  When Carol ran home, having not found my Mom.  Her Dad questioned, and she had no reply.  

Where was Mary Ann?

Somewhere past the start of the meal, my Mom came running home.  Grandpa very sternly asked, "And where have you been?"  

Mary Ann, having experienced the sting of Grandpa's discipline measures more than once, knew she had to have the perfect answer.

So she carefully reached in her pocket and pulled out a dollar bill.  "I was babysitting and I got this!" She exclaimed.

"Oh, well then, sit down and eat."  

It was later that mom finally shared her secret with Carol.  Just in case, she was ever late, mom ALWAYS carried a dollar bill in her pocket. 

It was just a couple of years ago that my mom had me buy a notebook for her.  She was making her funeral arrangements.  But instead of just writing down what she wanted, she got busy on her phone.  She called each person she wanted to do something, and asked.  It was all written out in her notebook, what she did want, and what she didn't.

So she wore her favorite jeans.  Her Hershey's Kiss necklace.  Her Concordia College sweatshirt.  She encouraged us all to dress casually and wear Maroon and Gold if we chose- although we didn't spread the word on that very well.

Still, Mom's service was filled with the kinds of things, and people, and stories, that shouted "this is So Mary Ann."  

The beautiful flowers.

My hockey moms.  Nolan and Colton literally beamed when they saw so many of our hockey families showing up.

My brother, Lee, in the middle, with two of his Concordia College friends.  


Mom's first line of her journal said, "Rob to speak."  No more needed to be said on that one.

My cousin Rob, has the gift of gab, one might say.  Not only is he a story spinner, but the humor he infuses leaves you gasping for air as your sides split, while your face floods from tears at the same time.     But he also ministers to you, because at the root of everything he does, is his faith in God, which he openly shares.  Oh how he had us on the edge of our pews, soaking in all of his funny, wise and faith-filled words.  I wish I had them to share with you.  But what I do have is the memory of being swept up in the emotion of it all, along with the sound of the distinct crinkle of the plastic kleenex wrappers,  getting a work out with all of our leaky eyes. 

Because we needed faith in unfathomable ways.  Our loss that week was double.  

Because while my Mom, Mary, hovered near Heaven's doors…surrounded by my brother, Lee, myself, and Mom's older sister, Marlene... Rob said, "God must have been whispering "come,"  and not only did Mom listen and go, but 24 hours later so did Rob's stepdad- Ernie.

Yes, our beloved Uncle Ernie, went to be with Jesus, just 24 hours after Mary Ann did.  Marlene, Mom's sister, and Rob's mother, lost her sister one day, and her husband the next day.

Ernie had sat in his recliner, watching basketball on tv, saying "this will be the last basketball game… of the season."  But when Marlene went to awaken him for bed, Ernie's spirit had gone.  And while none of us were ready for him to go, Rob's words brought comfort.  Ernie must have heard Jesus saying, "Come."  

Our family must have heard too.  They came pouring in from all over,  surrounding us with comfort and memories, and love.  Friday and Saturday for mom, and Sunday and Monday for Ernie.

Back to mom's funeral service.  Mom hadn't asked just one person to speak.  Paul was one of Mom's supervisors at Concordia, and very much a kind and loving friend of Mom's for years, was also asked to speak at her service.  Paul wove a story around the 5 things he had learned from my mother.  He also had an understanding of mom's humor,  and shared part of the retirement story they had done for her.  In a training video they interviewed my mom many times.  Then they cut the clip of the infamous words she shared over and over again…

Be busy.  


Stay busy.


Keep busy.


Get busy.


Just stay busy.

Or something to that effect.  I forget how many times they caught her saying it- but it was many- and so typical of my Mom.

We think in honor of Mom we may have to donate a plaque to Concordia Dining Services, in her memory.  

The "Mary Ann Held- be busy- award."  

Paul went on to pay a loving tribute to Mom in the simple and yet profound way she conducted herself in life. 

After the service, as we lined up in our cars, with Mom leading the way.

We were struck by how the light lit up the beautiful flowers, and a white and warm glow hovered around Mom the entire way to the cemetery,

Then true to my Mom's heart's desire- her "boys" carried her to her eternal resting place- all wearing their Concordia colors.  The newly appointed Captain of the Cobber football team, Rob's son, Eric- wearing his jersey, #9. Nolan wearing his Dad's #26 Cobber baseball warm up, Andrew- also a Cobber football player, Duane and Emil, two co-workers of moms, and then my brother Lee, also a former Cobber football player.  

Despite our sadness, we stood as family, together, in honor of our Mom.  

Her eternal resting place is beautiful.  She is next to our Dad, and right by her Mom and Dad.  Rick's mom is just a few rows over, as well as our nephew Hunter.  

I've been rocked to the core with my Mom's loss.  I'm still in the wee-early stages of mourning.  I just know that my mom was a bridge to so many parts of my life I hadn't realized.  And now its just me.  And the loneliness that sneaks in, when you feel that abrupt disconnection, is truly the journey through "the awful grace of God."  I am convinced- through- is the only way back to the light.


  1. Tears...oh Vicky...well, I am so glad I was able to be there and hear those stories firsthand. It was a beautiful send-off; it really was. And your account of it...very special. She is within you, Vicky. You don't have to look much further than that. But of course, there is no much to process. Thanks for introducing us all to your mother, who we all need to thank for bringing you, dear one, into this world. Thanks for giving her such a beautiful send-off. God will bring you many consolations given this tremendous loss. I am so glad you felt the love that day and I hope you do now, too. XXOO

  2. I was so happy to have you there, as well, Roxane. What you say is true and I am thankful for your wisdom and love, truly. At some unknown time to me, I know I will come to peace, much like I did with my Dad- its simply being willing to go all the way into the middle and gaining that persecutive and then filling with light again. xxoo

  3. Another beautiful post. I soaked in every word, picturing it all in my mind. What a loving, meaningful send off.

    I am with my Dad, up in Alaska, celebrating his 90th birthday. I am grateful to be here. We will all be in your shoes, eventually - letting go of a dear parent. You're teaching us about grief, and I thank you for sharing your heart with us.

    Love and prayers, S

    1. Susan- I love that you are with your Dad. I pray you continue to build wonderful and sustaining memories with him. Thank you for supporting me through this journey~

  4. Your words, your writings, bring out so much emotion in me. Oh, that I could express myself the way you do, a way to make people see the way I feel, to feel the way I feel. I rarely make it through your posts, without being deeply touched. God bless you, Vicky.

    1. Gosh, your grace-filled words truly touch me in return. God's blessings to you, Ms. A.

  5. What a beautiful post - and the perfect ceremony to express the essence of who your mother was in this life. I hope she was beaming down on all of you, seeing it all unfold.

    1. Karen- yes, me too- beaming definitely I think.

  6. Now, I know your mother. Thank you. My emotions are running too deep to "talk."

    I love you. May God's unspeakable peace fill you.

    1. Thank you, Julie, I know how that feels all too well. Love to you~

  7. WOW you look like your mom!!

    1. Thank you, Maddy- so sweet of you to say- xxoo

  8. What lovely, lovely memories of your mom's service. It sounds as if it were so true to her. I am so sorry to hear about your second loss. How difficult that must be.

    You look so much like your mom!

  9. so much love to you!! Still wrapping you in hugs and prayers! My heart aching for you sweet friend - as I imagine your loss feels tremendous!


  10. I love this post Vicky. Looks and sounds like it was a beautiful service for your Mom. Hugs and blessings to you and your family... :( xoxo

  11. A wonderful recounting of a beautiful service. I somehow feel better about my 'busyness.'
    She sounds like such a thoughtful, funny woman. I'm sorry for the pain you feel at this loss, but it will make you more tender (if that's even possible).

  12. Ya, that's exactly how I felt when my parents passed on. I don't have a big family and my son moved to Australia. The other is young and trying to build his life and every one else lives far away. I am sure Mom saw her family with her and she was happy to see them all together.
    May she rest in peace in Gods' hands and love.xoxox

  13. I have checked back here so often waiting for the next post and knowing it could only come when you were able - barely able. And now I find I missed it by three days. I'm so sorry to be late.

    Can't believe all you and your family walked through losing your mom and uncle all at once. And that Rob was able to bear up and honor your mother's wishes is a testimony to his strength and God's ability to equip us with HIS strength.

    What a great story about your Mom's dollar bill and that you sent it with her. Maybe irs strange to say that a funeral was beautiful but it just seems like it was - and everything the way she wanted it. My heart aches for your loneliness and longing and I can only say to take each moment of mourning on your own terms and in your own way. God is so close to the broken hearted and He is ever present with you and pouring out His Spirit.

    Love you and waiting to find out hiw you are physically. Thank you for generously sharing these tender and precious moments of your Mom's send off with us.

  14. My dearest Vicky,
    I have read and reread this post, gazed at the pictures, smiled and cried as I read your words, seen the picture of Nolan, a young man now standing tall and taller than his Mom, your hand on Colton, the family gathered for two services...and at once my heart smiles and is broken by all the loss.

    You honored her and did it just the way she wanted. I had to chuckle as I still have the notebook where my Mom, in all of her organization, told me to take notes..."you'll want to give my necklace to Amy, my jewelry that is yellow gold to Jessi. It needs to be just so" she said just months before she went home. I laughed at the vision of your Mom and my Mom both being the queens of busyness and being busy in heaven together.

    I am so honored, dear friend, that you bright me/us along with pictures and words of wisdom to the letting go of your mom service. The dollar bill, safely tucked, the stories, the support.
    I felt like I was there with you.

    And your words, "I've been rocked to the core by my Mom's loss." I know, dear heart, I know.
    Holding you in my prayers as tomorrow is your first Mother's Day without her being here so you can call her. I still buy a card for my Mom every year, even though she is gone. I say aloud,
    "This one's for you Mom!"

    I love you Vicky Held Westra, wide and deep, wide and deep.

  15. Dear Vicky,
    I do not know what it is like to have a mom like yours: present, faithful, loving, always there, but I can imagine. I can also imagine that a Mother's Day without her is painful so I wanted to stop by and send you love, much love!

  16. You are never, ever ready to lose your mother.


I welcome what you have to say. Thanks for taking the time to grace me with your thoughts and words!

When you get lucky

When you get lucky

Popular Posts - MN Weather, Map, Businesses and Blogs
Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape