finding good in great loss

A woman that I know recently posted a baby photo of her father, her father who died when she was only a few years old by way of suicide.

While Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade have been its “star victims” just this past week, I can’t help but think of the countless amount of human beings we lose this way. Just like the culprits it’s mostly associated with, mental illness and addiction, suicide can find you no matter who you are, in spite of your upbringing, race, religion, family or career status.

Like so many others, I have had to say goodbye to someone so dear to me because of this most distressing act. And I sometimes wonder how I wasn’t able to recognize the heartbrokenness and depression in his eyes. How was I not able to see he was at the point where he had no fight left?

For all of us who are left behind to grieve and ponder this senseless loss of life, we must remember that we are also left behind to share our loved one’s legacy and impact others through it. I believe every person has the ability to affect others for the better, even through their death. We can also find consolation in our compassionate and merciful God, who surely grants heavenly peace and healing to those who have struggled so greatly on earth.

It is my hope that this epidemic of suicide is somehow used for the greater good – teaching our world a lesson of kindness, awareness and love. It is my prayer that it will soon cease.

A Mother’s Day in Heaven and on Earth

Dear friends,

It is Mother’s Day weekend, and I personally am thrilled – it’s my first Mother’s Day!  I look forward to celebrating the mamas in my family and giving a little extra thanks than normal to all the amazing moms I know.

This very special day has inspired me to share the story of how I became a mom, and to tell you a little bit about one of the most incredible moms I’ve known. —

It was Mother’s Day last year when my family and I returned home from our beach trip.  A couple of days later, my husband Jeff and I walked down the street in our neighborhood to visit with my grandmother who lived just around the corner.  We gave her a card and some hugs and spent a little time with her.  I watched her hands in gentle motion as we talked about the events happening in our lives, the books she’d been reading, and most significantly, what Heaven is really like.  As we walked back home, my heart full, I told Jeff how nice it would be if Mim (as I affectionately called my MawMaw) would be able to meet our baby.

Jeff and I had just finalized all of our adoption paperwork and were just waiting for a phone call that a baby was, for lack of a better word, “available”.  And Mim was getting sicker. Having been diagnosed with non-smokers lung cancer a few years prior, she was doing well, continuing her daily routine which included gardening, cooking and a great dedication to playing the organ at church.  Most recently, though, she had declined and ultimately decided she didn’t want anymore medical intervention.

Mim knew of our desire for children and our excitement as we went through the preparations for adoption.  I would keep her up-to-date on our lives, whether through visits at her kitchen table, phone calls in which we shared our health woes and asked each other for prayers, or conversations in the church parking lot after daily mass.  Being able to share our Catholic faith, in particular those Monday or Thursday evening masses, was one of the greatest and most cherished gifts I’ve been given.  I admired Mim not only for her unwavering and effortless faith, but for her loyalty, kindness, patience, humility and for being all those things not just as a human being but as a mother to eight children.  While not perfect, she lived her life with devotion to and in imitation of our Blessed Mother, and truly was saintly because of it.

An hour after returning home from our Mother’s Day visit with Mim, my phone rang.  It was our adoption attorney who started talking about “this little baby boy due in July”.  God surely heard our conversation, we thought, but at the same time we didn’t want to get our hopes up…

But, we officially matched with this little boy’s birth mother a couple weeks later.  This match was coupled with such uncertainly that Jeff and I decided we were going to keep things to ourselves for a while because literally the adoption plan was changing day to day.  Once we were a few weeks ahead of the due date we told our parents and siblings.  And I wanted to tell Mim because in the midst of all this, she had taken a turn for the worst.

Wednesday, June 21st, we spent the day in and out of my grandmother’s home, as children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and friends all came to say goodbye to my Mim.  Amidst all the visits, church songs being sung, and the laughs at my grandmother’s journal being read aloud, I was able to sneak in a few moments alone with her.  And I told her, “Mim, we might have a baby boy in a few weeks”.  She opened her eyes after a little bit and said “Oh!” with a smile.  I told her to listen for my prayers because I most assuredly would be asking for her motherly advice and intercession to God.

My Mim went to Heaven on Thursday, June 22nd, 2018.  It was a day that I’ll never forget.  Even in my sorrow, I took great comfort in the gift God had given me – being able to witness to a most beautiful life, all the way till the final earthly goodbye.  That day our family lost our matriarch here on Earth but gained our saint in Heaven.

In the midst of mourning and helping with funeral plans, Jeff and I were still riding the rollercoaster of emotions, guarding our hearts yet preparing them to possibly be parents in the very near future.   Since Mim’s passing I had been asking her to intercede for us like I had promised.   Soon after, I received word that the birth parents finally wanted to meet us and that Sunday we drove to Jackson, Mississippi where we met them for lunch.  Once everyone’s nerves settled we were able to have an enjoyable meeting and came home feeling like we made a great connection and confident that the crazy ride would soon subside.  They told us they were pretty certain that the baby would be coming sooner than his due date and wanted to make sure we were ready.  We were more than ready for him, but could only hope and pray that God willed him to be ours.

Mim’s funeral service was that Tuesday.  It was the most beautiful farewell I have ever witnessed.  Even though her wishes were for no one to speak about her but to give all glory to God, the tribute was moving, as we were able to give Mim all of the praise she humbly deserved.  I continued to pray to her, to thank her for all she’d done for our family and for the incredible role model she’d been to me.

A few days passed with a lot of back and forth conversations with the birth parents, adoption agency and attorney, which unfortunately led us back to feeling uneasy.  Needless to say our attorney and agency rep were also highly concerned that things wouldn’t work out.  And I just kept talking to Mim.  Saturday afternoon I was leaving church after setting up for the upcoming week of Vacation Bible School, when I received a message from the birth mother letting me know that she was having contractions and she was on her way to the hospital.  Once she told me that her water broke, Jeff and I quickly packed up the car, kissed the dog goodbye and sped on up to Jackson.  We prayed, sang church songs on the way (well I sang), called our parents, and at this point allowed ourselves to get excited.

We walked into our birth mother’s labor and delivery room at 7:00pm.  Within moments, she was ready to push, and Jeff waited in the hallway while I was in the delivery room.  At 7:15pm, Eli Wayne Director came into this world!

Eli was a healthy 8lb 8oz boy but needed to stay in the nursery for a few days for observation and until all legal paperwork was in order.  All the while, I was praying to my Mim.  I sang her organ music to Eli as I rocked him in the nursery.  I told him about the incredible journey we had been on to get to him; how we tried to so hard to protect our hearts all the while praying so hard that he was meant to be ours.  I told him all about his amazing great-grandmother – although he wouldn’t be able to see her on Earth, she most certainly held him in Heaven before God sent him to us.

I now know without a doubt that God was listening to me that day when we walked home from Mim’s house.  While she was never able to meet our baby in this world, I know she has done far more for us from Heaven than she could have done on Earth.  Through every roadblock we encountered, every moment we were confused or lost, I know she was there to help pave the way.  Jeff and I agreed when we began the adoption process that we would never force anything to happen because then it wouldn’t be meant to be.  God knew the sincerity of our hearts and undoubtedly led us exactly where we needed to be, to our Eli.

I think of Mim every day.  When I hear the church organ playing, when I’m rocking Eli to sleep and when I close my eyes to pray, I know she is with me.  And I can hear her say, “I love you, honey”.  Happy 1st Heavenly Mother’s Day, Mim.  I love you.

love > fear: drowning out persecution

Hi friends,

There is so much ongoing persecution in our world, it makes me wonder if there will ever be a day when it will stop, or at least subside a bit. Of course we know that this life will not be perfect, but I often question what it is that makes this epidemic of hatefulness continue to grow, and if there is any more that good people can do to help. We pray, we hug our loved ones tighter, and we’re kind to strangers. But what else can we do?

Sadly, persecution is easily nurtured by a sad and selfish world. From the beginning of man and throughout all ages and even more evident now in our modern media-driven world, this horrible activity remains. I don’t know if it just seems more prevalent now because there are many platforms on which to act it out and more means of hearing about it, but every time you turn on the news channel or tap in online, there are stories of families being slaughtered by religious terrorist regimes and 14-year-old children ending their own lives.

Jesus taught us to love one another as you love yourself, Gandhi preached about methods to attain harmony and peace, and many fearless leaders have come in between and after to do the same. While incredible and inspiring men and women have walked this earth demonstrating this decree, there are many who have forgotten or who have turned from it. And why?

Persecution, or as I call it, the grown-up word for bullying, stems from ignorance, intimidation and fear.

We must teach our children, be examples to our friends and neighbors, of how to genuinely love and respect. Even if we don’t understand someone’s behavior, choices and ideologies, we must remove that fear that bears intimidation and educate ourselves to love all of God’s people before the ignorance takes over our hearts and minds. Unfortunately we are not going to change the world, but we do have the ability to affect the lives of those within our short reach.

I heard it said once that the nightmare ends only when our love becomes greater than our fear. Instead of acting upon our fears, we must offer them to God wholeheartedly. If we can get into the practice of doing this, then we can stop the negative feelings they create inside of us and, even better, we will be better able to prevent them from affecting others.

With love,
Leigh

What Fear Can Do; What Faith Can Do

Dear Friends,

It makes me sad – the amount of anger this world carries. I could cry if I thought deeply about it, educated myself more through the daily headlines, removed myself from the safe bubble in which I thankfully live. And where does this closed state of heart, this defensive state of mind come from?

Most of the time our anger is brought on by fear, and let’s face it, we all possess some fear or another. Most of us carry a ton of fears with us in our daily walk. Our fears not only cause us to be angry, but insecure and even unlovable at times (not to God, of course). We fear rejection, insignificance, abandonment, loss, and all sorts of other conditions or situations that could find us lonely or in any kind of pain. But this is what we have to understand – it’s okay. No person will ever be able to rid themselves fully of these feelings because that comes with the vulnerability of being human. God made us this way…with a whole variety of emotions that ebb and flow and sometimes just don’t ebb and flow as we would like them. At the end of the day we have to come to the realization that our vulnerabilities are meant to be, the way God intended it. For it is through our vulnerabilities, – aka our emotions, aka our humanity, that we are called to our knees before God.

We have to be willing to walk through our fears, as terrorizing as we think that walk will be. If we avoid them and wall ourselves up then they can dictate our lives and keep us from ever loving freely and living freely, especially freely with the Spirit of God in our hearts. When our fears become this strong, the joy in our souls can become depleted and we can be left debilitated to a real understanding of our self-worth as God’s children. And gosh – nothing good comes from losing your self-value!

No one has had a perfect life, an exceptional deal, and even if it seems that way, struggle or strife pays a visit to everyone at some time or another in some form or another. Handling your fears perfectly is a road that doesn’t exist, my friends, but I find that if you mindfully live with the presence of God, the peace of Christ in your heart than it can be easier. Instead of misplacing fear with anger or hiding from it, we should use this human vulnerability for our benefit – to come closer to God, as we ask Him to give us strength, to even carry us at times, to enable us to deal with our fears.

There is so much anger in our world, and so much is brought on by people living in fear. We need to make more of an effort to smile and not judge, to not be so quick to react harshly off of our own feelings. We need to understand that our fears are normal, but in order for them to not have such an affect on our love and life, we must let them go to God’s care, along with everything else!

 

Lovingly,

Leigh

the purpose within us

Hello again friends!

So, my apologies for sounding a bit morbid so soon in this blogging adventure…but I often think about how I would plan my last moments on this earth, if I could.  It would be more of a process than an instant, something that kept me alive with time enough to come face to face with everyone that I’ve ever known, and I mean everyone! I would look each person in their eyes and tell them sincerely “I love you”. “Thank you”. “You were important to me”, everyone from the receptionist at the hospital clinic who checks me in for my appointments, to my best girlfriends, to my college Poli Sci professor I haven’t seen in a decade, all the way from my grandma to the love of my life, and everyone in between! They have all come together in such a way to make up each millisecond that has passed in the last 32 years, to make my life, well, my life. I would want to give them my one last “thanks”, one last bit of recognition for who they were and what they meant, at the very least, to little old me.

Everyone is here for a reason, a purpose, whether it seems great or small. We all make up this glorious community we call Earth. Especially in a world that can be filled with so much sadness and hate, I believe that it is our job not only as true Christians, but just simply as good human beings, to be present for each other. We are not here to serve ourselves but to serve our brothers and sisters. We are to show Love in this world, no matter what. And God is Love!

I am not disillusioned with the idea that world peace is something we can achieve…because if we could accomplish that in this world then there would be no need for Heaven. In fact, as we live in this beautiful yet imperfect dwelling, the peace of Heaven should be our ultimate desire. But as we are called to be stewards of humanity, we should do all that we can to bolster, to nourish, the fruits of kindness, joy, hope, peace, and ultimately love into the hearts of our neighbors. And it is through this, my friends, that our life’s most important purpose is fulfilled. And the best news is this – it doesn’t matter who you are, what you look like, where you live, what your career is or how much money you make. The prerequisite to being a steward of humanity is that you are here on this earth and you allow the love of God into your heart!

The love of God can do amazing things! Love makes way for so many other beautiful gifts to grow inside of us; gifts that can be used to strengthen us in difficult times, provide comfort when we don’t understand, and give us the desire to sacrifice for others, to even die to ourselves.

It is so easy to get caught up in selfish desires and the responsibilities of living, that we lose sight of God’s role for us; we go dumb and numb to His constant calling. I am just as guilty as the next person! It is part of our human condition. But, the truly wise person (wise with the wisdom of the Holy Spirit) knows how to quickly get back to that peaceful place of surrender, the place of rest in our Father’s loving arms. When I catch myself complaining or having a pity party, I am so thankful that my faith, as it has molded me, says, “Okay, you’ve had your 30 seconds of feeling sorry for yourself. Now, get over it and get back to the good stuff…duh…don’t you have a ton of blessings to be thankful for!?!”. Now don’t get me wrong. I am not trying to belittle anyone’s struggles. From cancer to a broken heart to a hangnail, if it’s your problem it’s a big deal to you…and that’s what our brothers and sisters are here for – to bandaid your finger or hold your hand through the tough stuff.

We should strive to remember our most basic and important purpose – to be a symbol of God, a sign of love, to the receptionist, teacher, spouse or grandparent, those who share this world with us. You just might find that it is only in giving that you receive!

Until next time and with love,

~Leigh

Welcome!

Welcome to the Whitman Family Foundation website and blog site!

I am so excited to start this relationship and to share with you what we do as a Foundation — the organizations we work with, the events we participate in, and the amazing people we meet along the way.

I have had the desire to write all my life, and to use that skill for good. Everyone’s life is a story and I strongly believe that how you choose to tell it matters most. In everything I do, and in everything I have experienced in my lifetime, I have chosen to glorify God. I strive each day to grow closer to our God, believing in His ever-present love and guidance. I hope that through my inspired writing I can encourage others to do the same.

I am thrilled to be able to fill you in on what my life’s journey has looked like and the humbling and rewarding experiences I have representing our Foundation.

 

With a grateful heart,

~Leigh