Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas Letter From Karen and Joe

The following letter was originally written by Karen on December 17. We held of on posting it for reasons hard to explain (maybe might be too sad for some...). But after reading Sharon's words from Treasures In Darkness remembering her son Mark , Marybeth's Christmas Letter remembering Maria, and the Laurie's Christmas card this remembering their son Christopher - I know we have to post this letter, remembering Joey. This is not the usual "merry" Christmas letter, but it's a Christmas letter from their heart. Here it is:

We ordered Christmas cards with a family picture on them, but they came back from Shutterfly so dark and difficult to see that we had to return them. So this post comes instead. The Christmas card disappointment is a metaphor for our lives these days. Nothing has turned out the way we wanted it to, and we wish we could just send the whole mess back to the manufacturer. Our 2008 is a sad series of shock waves, setbacks and sleepless nights. One disappointment tipped another, till we were left with a heap of loss. And like the Christmas card whose image is bearly discernible, we also have had difficulty seeing in the dark. We have asked "why" a thousand times, and shed ten thousand tears. In our worst moments, it feels as if our hearts and our dreams have been shattered and scattered to the wind. We breathe each day, and do the essentials, and that is all we have in us to do for now.

But in the midst of all this sadness, there has been comfort, and that is what has sustained us. So for the rest of our Christmas letter, we want to tell you about the mercy we have experienced in our darkest hour. For God is near to the broken-hearted, and we have felt that deeply and in so many ways.

Mercy 1: Our son was/is a beautiful person. We were proud of him in life and in death. He loved, he lived and he lead with passion. He touched so many with his goodness. He displayed love, acceptance, generosity, compassion, wisdom, adventure and good humor. His life was a success by every measurement. We have no regrets about our relationship with him, or our investment in him.

Mercy 2: Our son was ready for Heaven. He believed in Christ for the forgiveness of his sins and trusted in God to take care of him no matter what. He died with his daily reading Bible by his side. His faith in Christ provided him the only ticket he needed to get into Heaven. He didn't have to earn his way to Heaven, he just had to believe there was One who had done it for him, which he unashamedly did.

Mercy 3: Heaven is real. We never paid much attention to Heaven before, we just took it for granted as the place old or sick people go when they die. From the moment Joey passed, it became topic one. We had to seek out the scriptures that told us about Heaven or we would never have found any comfort in his passing. Now it is as real to us as Kihei or Virginia Beach. Though we haven't seen it, we think about it every day, and imagine what Joey is experiencing. The veil between Heaven and earth seems thinner now. Bible verses about Heaven have become gold to us, our earthly hope for ultimate reunion. We want to make him proud by the way we walk in faith, hearing him whisper to us, "It's real, it's awesome; don't doubt, just trust God and live for Him!".

Mercy 4: A final goodbye together as a family. The months before Joey passed afforded us more than the usual number of get-togethers with his sisters, who saw him a couple of times on trips to California. We also had a wonderful Christmas with him skiing last year in Idaho. The week before Joey passed, we were all in Hawaii together for his sister JoAnne's graduation. In addition, his best friend and Second Family were also there, as their son graduated too. Joey was so happy to be with us all, and even more tender than usual with us. We had meaningful talks and lots of laughs. We sat on the beach and we surfed. He regaled his nieces and nephews with stories that entertained us all. He treated his mom to High Tea at the Moana Surfrider Hotel! We ate fish tacos and drank beer together! We had a memorable dinner with his best friend at Mama's Fish House! A splendid week. How do you account for such timing except to know that God was preparing the way for us.

Mercy 5: Rachel and her pictures. Rachel is God's gift to our family. The most amazing, talented, insightful, lovely woman you could ever hope to marry your son. Though we never made it to the wedding, she is our daughter-in-love, a special friend to each one of us. Her pictures of our son and his last three years capture the essence of his spirit and are the treasures we live on daily. Rachel's love for Joey and loyalty to us is like Ruth's in the Bible--where you go, I will go, your people will be my people, your God will be my God. There aren't enough words for the depth and beauty of Rachel or the comfort she has given us.

Mercy 6: Our daughters and son-in-laws and grandchildren. Our daughters adore their brother. They aren't jealous of our love for him, they share it and we have been able to weep together over and over again for what we lost when he went to Heaven. Their patience with our paralysis has been most helpful. Our son-in-laws love Joey, too, and have shown amazing strength in a year where they also lost so many of their Navy SEAL teammates. When time stopped, they have kept us moving forward. Our grandchildren continue to give us joy and laughter when we couldn't find it anywhere else. Everyone in our family has endured the loss of Joey with courage and faith. And even though grief is an isolating experience, they have worked hard to keep us united and have really risen to the need.

Mercy 7: Our family and friends to catch us when we fell. There are simply too many wonderful people to mention here by name, but they have been like soft pillows cushioning us when we crashed against the rocks. Just a short list includes: Joey's friends who went to his house and found him, who called us, who provided housing for our family and meals, friends who gathered in our home in Maui and made our travel arrangements, friends who drove and picked us up and met us at the mortuary, our California friends who handled every detail of the memorial services, and our Maui friends who did the same, friends who brought us meals, friends who have continually comforted us with their words, thoughtful gifts, books, stories, pictures and blog posts. We would not be standing had it not been for the people around us who carried and continue to carry us. We needed every single one of you and still do, and thank you from the depths of our hearts.

This is just a portion of the ways that God has taken care of us. We give Him thanks for all His faithfulness. We continue to gather mercies, and believe that God will continue to provide them for us in the years to come. The verse that we hang on to in this new chapter of our lives is this one from Philippians 3:20:

Our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables Him to bring everything under His control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

Your faithful friends,
Joe and Karen


Liza's Eyeview said...

"For God so love the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him, shall not perish but have an everlasting life" - 3:16

The above verse is the gist of Christmas. Sometimes we make Christmas too complicated, when in fact, it's as simple as that.

I know celebrating Christmas as a family with one seat missing is hard - hold on to the promise of John 3:16 - and one day we will all be celebrating together in heaven.

Anonymous said...

Our hearts go out to you as we are in the same position, remembering our dear daughter Angie. Trying to stay strong for the Lord and yet feeling the loss just because it will not be the same. As we prepare our hearts and minds with attending Christmas Eve services here in Colorado we pray that the Lord brings rest in us and we are able to focus on what this day means. You and family will be in our prayers through this Christmas season. In Christ Nick and Sharon

Anonymous said...

Great are your mercies Lord - they are new every morning!

Mackenzie said...

Joe & Karen,

It took me a couple of days to sit down and read this all at once. I glanced at it a couple times but knew that my heart wasn't quite ready to take it all in yet. But I am so glad that I finally read it this morning. It has moved me to tears - a mixture of joy and sadness. I don't want to forget all that has come with Joe(y)'s passing...the struggle, the pain, the joy, the goodness, the community, the comfort, the reality of God's love. Reading your words has helped me to remember. Thank you for your words. I know they were not easy to write. My heart is with you and your family at this time, when I know you will be missing Joe(y) terribly. Rachel is here with us in LA and we are doing our best to comfort and carry her through this time as well. We love you and thank God for your family and the blessing you have been to us this year. YOu may not realize it, but you have blessed me and Jim in so many ways.

Merry Christmas to you and may the Joy of God's love for us all be your comfort and your strength today and every day that is to come.

all my love,

Coetzee said...

Beautifully written, and a wonderful reminder of how incredible our Gods Mercy really is. Thank you for sharing it.

Van Down By The River said...

What a beautiful and honest letter, thank you so much for sharing it. I'm sorry about the Christmas card picture. I'm sorry that the next couple of days will be harder than most. I love you both, and consider my adoption into your family the greatest blessing in the midst of this torrential tragedy.

JIM said...

one cannot replace that which is irreplaceble, when the darkness surely comes, there is but one salvation, that which is the Light, the only true constant in this ever changing world. the why of it can never be explained or reasoned. Joey's life was short in our reckoning, but everlasting in God's kingdom, that is the promise and that is the truth. Cherish the time He was with us and when you will be with Him again, as you surely will. take comfort from your grief in that Joey's passing has and is, brought the Light to so many, in ways that are unimaginable and true blessings to us all. Much Love, Jim

Anonymous said...

you have shared your hearts with us over the past few months,which has caused us to love you even more.You could have easily chosen to crawl into a shell,but you have been a witness to thousands of people with your words.Our prayers are with you and yur family as you struggle to get thru this first christmas without Joey.I think the song Buddy dedicated to Kit last Sunday also speaks to you--"They that wait upon the Lord".God Bless,Joyce S.

Anonymous said...

Blessings on this Christmas Day Joey..we love you and miss you so much.

Love UD and Auntie Viv

Lee and Renee said...

You write so beautifully - putting your feelings, insights, changes into words. We share your pain. We are blessed by the mercies you are experiencing and rejoicing in those with you. You give us "meat" of The Word of God, His promises & truth in the darkness and disappointments in this crazy world we live in. Thank you for writing to us/for us. We love you and want you to know we are remembering you and praying for you this Christmas day.
With love,
Lee and Renee

Anonymous said...

Hi Joe and Karen,
We miss you guys here in Maui. We are all still constantly thinking of you guys, and praying for you and the rest of the family as well. With the combo of you two and the Borland family gone, there is a huge void in our lives. I hope you're having a wonderful time together with the family in VA. Thanks for sharing that wonderful Christmas letter with us. It's so honest. I am also so thankful for being able to go to Joanne's graduation. At the time it seemed like something fun to do, but looking back now, it was such a gift for me as well as everyone else. Also, I've been meaning to thank you for that awesome book you made and gave to us. We have it displayed on our window sill and many people have enjoyed looking at it. Cindy would actually like to buy a copy for herself. I hope the rest of your time with the family is enjoyable and memorable for you guys, as well as a time of healing. We love you guys.

anjuli paschall said...

i am remembering your family and the loss that is magnified in this season. My prayers are with you. thank you for sharing your heart during this dark hour. love.

aprilis said...

thank you for sharing that testament to God's awesomeness.
you are in my thoughts and prayers.

Janet said...

Remembering you and missing you this season of Christmas. Karen thank you for putting your heart in writing and sharing so beautifully. As I read your heart I cried. You all are so missed on Maui but I am thankful you are all together during this Christmas so you can hug each other tight and wipe away each others tears. I am praying that in the New Year there will be more laughter and peace for you as we will all continue to remember Joey. Tell Izzy I said hi :)
Fondly thinking of you,
Hugs & prayers, Janet

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your letter. You are so eloquent with your words Karen, so much, one can feel them and embrace it. you too.

I'm speechless. I cannot express my thoughts as you do so, with much tenderness, friendship & love I like to say, "Merry Christmas". May the New Year 2009 fill you all with joy... unmeasurable joy to dry the millions of tears of 2008.

love & friendship, Les

Debbie said...

Hi Joe and Karen,
Love and miss you guys so much. Thank you for posting this letter...we all ache so with you, are praying for you. As I read your beautiful words I was so struck with each precious gift after gift, love upon love, each mercy upon mercy. I thank God that Joey had the gifts of a super loving family and friends...and I thank God for every single priceless memory he has left for you, he has for us!

Anonymous said...

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He MAKES ME lie down in green pastures, He LEADS ME beside quiet waters, He RESTORES MY SOUL. He GUIDES ME in paths of righteousness for His name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and your staff, they COMFORT ME. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

Dio said...

I hope that the year to come will bring piece in your hearts!
Love & Aloha!

Anonymous said...

You are in our hearts!
We love and miss you!
God Bless,

Danielle said...

Thank you so much for sharing that with us all...
We love you, We miss you,
God Bless you....

Trish Garcia said...

Thank you for continuing to allow us to share your grief and to know how you are, so that we know how to pray.

Love you both,

Trish Garcia

Anonymous said...

Hi Joe and Karen,
We've read your letter a few times now, and every time it sends me into contemplation and prayer.
Thank you for your honesty and openness. Even in grief, you are models for us.
We love you and keep you close in our hearts and prayers.
Cassie and the boys

Bill and Lu Kepler said...

My heart aches over and over as I read your gift of love to us. I thank God for the 7 Mercies He gave to you.

Lu and I think of you every day. We love you. It helps a little to think that we here on Maui are a part of those 7 mercies. 2009 will definitely be better than 2008.
Bill and Lu