Bittersweet Blessings and Late-Summer Bouquets

 “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven; ..and a time to heal.”– The Teacher (Ecclesiastes 3:1,3 NIV)

“Some people are always grumbling that roses have thorns; I am thankful that thorns have roses.– Alphonse Karr

Dear Catherine,

Happy birthday, honey. I wish you were here.

Your gift this year is a late-summer bouquet. The bittersweet blessing of cooler nights and shorter days seems to have spurred the neighborhood flowers into furious bloom, a last-gasp effort that shouts, “We’re not done yet!” Even the butterflies appear to have launched an August campaign to pollinate the planet, one bush at a time. As the sun moves south, the turquoise skies of summer are deepening to that autumn shade of azure, the postcard-perfect backdrop of a Rocky Mountain fall. You loved every season of your Colorado home, but this last week of August still belongs to you. God lent you to us as a late-summer gift.

You would be twenty-five today. To us, you will be forever fourteen. For several years your friends kept in touch with us; we joined the throngs of celebrants as they graduated, married, and moved on with their lives. Understandably a little gun-shy in crowds, your dad and I always grabbed a corner table for four; it seemed we could not attend any event without including our constant companions, bitter and sweet. Tears burned my throat as I hugged every bride, threatening to escape as even as I gushed over her dress. Finally we’d throw the rice and wish them well; off they would drive for their honeymoon as I cried all the way home in the car. I would have loved to have seen you get married.

Sorry, sweetie, I get caught up. On a brighter note, what’s your birthday like in Heaven? Do you celebrate birthdays there? Does Jesus hug you tightly for me, laughing at your goofy sense of humor and tickling your funny bone? Oh, how I wish I could be there! As it is, I’m afraid I might have to call Him away from the party. Missing you on your birthday is so hard I can’t stop the tears from coming. I need Jesus down here with me. He knows what it’s like to feel sad.

“My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with Me.”-Jesus Christ (Matthew 26:38 NIV)

Jesus knows about suffering, both His and ours. To His disciples He said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33b NIV) Did He know you would leave us so soon? Of course. Did He build you a nice home in Heaven? He promised He would, so I’m sure that He did. (John 14:1-4) I guess my real question for Him is: What does “taking heart” look like? How do I overcome a world full of brides and grandbabies and birthdays every year?

And He whispers, “Remember. Remember My gifts as well as My commands.”

“Remember the friends I sent you? They give you their hugs, their presence, their prayers.”

“Remember the Word I sent you? It’s your invitation to the Party, and the promise of My love.”

“Also remember I have work for you to do. Reaching out to others will rescue you from the pool of self-pity. Keep your eyes open for My assignments.”

“Remember the Colorado skies you are so fond of? The ‘someday’ of eternity is coming. On that day, your azure skies will drop the act and run for cover. Even the splendor of the Milky Way at midnight cannot begin to compare with the glory of Heaven. Catherine is safe and happy and busy. To her, time has a different meaning. You will be here almost before she knows it, and almost before you know it, too. Be patient and wait for Me. On your ‘someday’ I will come and take you Home. In the meantime, I will help you through the hard days and rejoice with you on the good ones. And you still have good days to come. Trust Me.”

Okay, Lord. Who can argue with that?

Catherine, here’s your birthday bouquet, made of the flowers that bloom in late summer. The colorful ribbons that weave their way through it are my precious memories of your laughter, your kindness, and the strength of your will. The crystals that bounce back those sparkles of sunshine are the tears that have watered the growth of my soul. I send my love, I wish you the best, and with all my heart I look forward to the day I will see you again.

Happy birthday, honey.

Love, Mom

Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord. (Psalm 31;24 NIV)

“The hope of heaven under troubles is like wind and sails to the soul.”- Samuel Rutherford.


  1. danielle says:

    My tears flow alongside yours – you are loved! Waiting for Heaven, sending blessings today.

  2. jonni says:

    Thanks for being so honest and in your gracious sharing in my joyous occasions when I know your heart aches. love you.

  3. Rachel Ophoff says:


    Normally I wouldn’t even comment on the “bitter” part of the bittersweet. But when I post these writings every week, I add “meta tags.” Meta tags are picked up by the search engines. Out there somewhere may be a grieving mother who Googles “death of a child”, one of my meta tags, and my blog will eventually come up in her search results. I have to let her know that there is hope in the midst of darkness. I have to let her know there is hope in knowing Jesus. Before I post every week, I pray that God will send this writing to one who needs it. Slowly my readership is growing. Somewhere out there in cyberspace, someone (who doesn’t even know me!) is reading my blog.

    Don’t forget Bitter’s beautiful twin sister, “Sweet.” I love being a part of your family, and the families who are kind enough and compassionate enough to invite us in. I do rejoice with you as your daughters marry and have babies of their own. I do pray with you as they face their own difficulties, because you and I both know that this life is hard! I miss Catherine, but I don’t have to worry about her. As Jesus told me, I will see her before I know it.

    RE: your doctor visit: good news! I mean, more surgery isn’t great news, but the candid “no cripple” verdict is! Yahoo!

    RE: Jesse. Yes, he’s all moved in with his buddy Andy, a good guy. He started school a week ago and is looking for a job. He was really ready to go back and (for the first time) I was ready for him to go back. It was good to have him here, but my life is easier with him gone.

    So, Kevin and I are still planning to go camping at Ruedi this Friday. It has cooled off considerably here, but is supposed to warm back up to the point where the weather up there should be just about perfect.

    So, off to the races. I can imagine this is a pretty crazy time with Hayley and the band, so I’m praying for you! I’m looking forward to catching up when you get back. Give her my love.

    R (xox yourself!)

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