Sad but thankful

I remember the very first time I met my father-in-law. It was early in the morning. My husband had picked me up from Miami airport at around midnight and we drove all night to his parents’ home in Ormond Beach. I was so nervous because I didn’t know how I would be received.

My husband’s father emerged from the hallway with a huge smile and his arms were out to hug me. He was so happy to see me and I felt so welcomed.

Even though God is my Heavenly Father, I think He knew that I needed to have a father who could show me what a real father ought to be. Over the years my father-in-law did many of the things I imagined a father would— he showed me how to make spaghetti sauce and to roast red peppers, he shared stories from his past, and we would go to the local Farmer’s market and thrift stores.

My father-in-law was the father figure I never had as a child— he gave me encouragement and accepted me. I think God blessed me with him because my other earthly fathers fell short—my biological father had basically abandoned me after my parents divorced, and my stepfather was a pedophile.

I felt more like my father-in-law’s adopted daughter than his daughter-in-law, and I called him, “Dad,” because in my heart that’s what he was to me. I wanted him to be proud of me— for being a good wife and mother, and for my personal accomplishments. He died before I received my doctorate degree, but I know he would have been proud.

Today is his birthday and I mourn his death, but I am thankful that he was in my life—“Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father…” (James 1:17, NLT), and I know one day I will see him again. God is good!

dadcake(Dad at my wedding on Nov. 24, 1984)

Copyright © 2015 Dr. M. Teresa Trascritti
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Death and Heaven

Yesterday we were all shocked to hear of Robin Williams’ death. I guess it was because it seemed so sudden and unexpected.

I think death makes us feel helpless and inadequate. Our lives are basically on “auto-pilot” until all of a sudden someone dies and we remember that life doesn’t stay the same forever—people die and one day we will die too.

Sometimes a person’s death makes us wonder if there’s something after death— do we just live for a few years then get buried in the ground and that’s it? Or is there really a place like Heaven?

I’d like to think that we go somewhere else after we die. I try to imagine what Heaven will be like— a place with no crime, no illnesses, no fear, no frustrations, no sadness, no gossip, no bullying, no negativity, no phoniness, no hatred, no hardships, no “keeping up with the Jones,” no pressure, no anxiety, no evil.

The Bible tells us that the only way we can go to Heaven is to cling to Jesus Christ and to acknowledge Him as our Lord and Savior: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.”

I hope to see many of my friends and family members in Heaven.

Copyright © 2014 Dr. M. Teresa Trascritti

Two deaths

I thought my mother would be grieving my stepfather’s death—she had been married to him for almost 40 years, but instead of grief, there was relief.

My mother had been through so much— for a year, my stepfather was bedridden and my mother had to feed and change him. She had no peace— even when she wanted to go downstairs for a break, he would call for her and she would stay with him in the room.

When my mother discovered he had died, she called my brother and he wired money for her to cremate him. About four hours later, she was presented with a ceramic vase with his ashes in it. There was no funeral and no one cried for him.

I then thought about my father-in-law’s funeral. All of us were mourning his death—all of us were deeply saddened because we would miss him. The church was filled with people and they talked about all the wonderful things my father-in-law did.

There’s a stark difference between the way my stepfather and my father-in-law were remembered in death, and I think these differences reflected who they were and how they lived their lives.

My stepfather was a pedophile and a gambling addict. He molested not only my sister and me, but also my cousins and my brother’s niece on his wife’s side (these were the ones that I know about). He had also been arrested for picking up prostitutes.

My father-in-law was a godly man. He was married to my mother-in-law for almost 50 years prior to his death. He was ill for 20 years yet he continued to do ministry. He was like a father to me and he loved my children very much.

My stepfather did not know the LORD, but my father-in-law did. My stepfather did not worship God, but my father-in-law worshiped Him constantly. My stepfather denied Christ, but my father-in-law embraced Christ and told others about Him.

Deuteronomy 30:19-20 says, “Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make… You can make this choice by loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and committing yourself firmly to him. This is the key to your life…” (NLT).

My stepfather did not choose life, but my father-in-law did, and now the memory of my father-in-law continues while my stepfather has been quickly forgotten.

Copyright © 2014 Dr. M. Teresa Trascritti

The phone call

This evening I received a voice message from my brother who I haven’t heard from in over three years. I didn’t answer the call because I didn’t recognize the number and I thought it was a marketing company.

His voice was shaky. He mentioned, “Mom,” and that’s when I called him. I didn’t even bother listening to the rest of his message.

He told me that my mother was in the hospital with pneumonia and that she had asked for him to see her. Apparently my stepfather died about four or five days ago. I’m not sure if her illness has anything to do with her grief.

My emotions are mixed.

My mother married my stepfather when I was 9 years old. Soon after, my stepfather started to molest us. I remember only bits and pieces. One of the strongest memories I had was when my mother said I couldn’t lock the door to my bedroom at night anymore because it “wasn’t safe.” I had a deep feeling of dread, fear, and panic.

For the longest time, I waited for my stepfather to die (he was about 20 years older than my mother). He never did, but then I moved on with my life. I got married and had a family of my own.

I had a literal distant relationship with my mother and stepfather—they lived in California and I lived in Florida. After a few years, they moved to the Philippines. Throughout my nearly 30 years of marriage I only saw my mother three times.

After I had become a Christian, I wanted my mother and even my stepfather to know Christ. I didn’t want revenge and I wasn’t waiting for him to die. In fact, I had hoped that I would hear him say that he had asked God for forgiveness and that he was a believer and a follower of Christ.

With Christmas cards and other mail, we would send them gospel tracts. About a year ago we sent them the “Jesus movie” and my mother said that my stepfather constantly watched it. I am hoping that it changed him.

My mother had always been resistant in hearing about Jesus. She told me several years ago on her last visit to Florida, that she didn’t need Jesus. I’m not sure if she still felt that way. As much as I could, I tried to tell her about Jesus’ love and how my life has changed because of Him.

I am not sure if my mother will recover from her illness. My father said that he will check on her today after the funeral of my stepmother’s mother. I am hoping that I will have one more opportunity to talk to her about God.

Copyright © 2014 Dr. M. Teresa Trascritti

Pongo

Today I said “good-bye” to an old friend, a family member, actually. I remember when I first met him. My husband brought him home as a late birthday gift. They said he was a puppy, but he was at least 7 months old, if not older.

I was disappointed because he wasn’t an actual puppy, but then after about a week or so he got sick. He developed a huge lump on the side of his neck. It was some kind of a dog disease. The puppy farm that sold him to my husband said that they could take him back and give us another dog, but I was afraid they would kill him. We kept him and he got better.

Over the years my children grew up with their new “brother.” He had the terrible habit of humping visitors. It was embarrassing, but it was funny at the same time. I guess it was a sign of dominance? Hard to believe a little Yorkie/Jack Russell dog would want to dominate people who were 20 times bigger than him.

He entertained my children with his ability to high jump and his speed in running. They remember the time he tried to pick a fight with the huge dog across the street. Pongo knew that he would lose the fight so he ran away as fast as he could and got bit on the rear end in the process. The vet said he was “lucky”—if he wasn’t such a fast runner then the other dog would have bit him on the neck and he would have bled to death.

I remember watching Simba, our cat, teasing Pongo. He didn’t mind—sometimes he teased him back and they would chase each other around the house.

The past few years we’ve noticed that Pongo slept more. He no longer jumped or ran, and lately he’s been struggling to walk. About three years ago his eyes started to cloud, and now he couldn’t see anymore—he bumped into furniture, the door, and the cats. The past couple of weeks, he had urinated in our bedroom during the night—he used to “tell” us when he needed to “go,” but he stopped letting us know.

This morning my husband took him to the vet. I struggled with that. I read an article recently (http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/time-euthanize-pet/story?id=19456241) and it asked two questions: Does the pet still like to play? Does it seem happy?

I took a picture of him this morning, and I don’t know if he’s happy anymore, and he hasn’t played in such a long time (he was at least 18 and a 1/2 years old now).

ImageMy husband just called. He was with Pongo as the vet put him to sleep. I am crying and tears are streaming down my face as I write this. I will miss that little dog, but as silly as it sounds, I have hope that I will see him again. As one of my favorite seminary professors said—all dogs go to Heaven: “For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself…” (2 Cor 5:19). The “world” means everything in the world, including animals. This gives me comfort.

Copyright © 2014 Dr. M. Teresa Trascritti

Death is not the end

Today the Rucker family laid to rest their beloved Tommy— husband, father, grandfather, brother, and son.

I saw the family’s emotional pain and tears of sadness, and felt the emptiness his absence has brought. Nothing will ever be the same for them again.

I wish death did not exist. I wish sorrow and grief were unknown words to us; but death is real, however it is not the end.

I think our life on earth is meant to rescue as many people as possible so that they can know about Jesus and have an everlasting life with God in the place He created for His people.

As we drove back home from the funeral I thought about 1 Corinthians 15:55-57,

“Death swallowed by triumphant Life!
Who got the last word, oh, Death?
Oh, Death, who’s afraid of you now?

It was sin that made death so frightening and law-code guilt that gave sin its leverage, its destructive power. But now in a single victorious stroke of Life, all three—sin, guilt, death—are gone, the gift of our Master, Jesus Christ. Thank God!” (The Message Bible).

Death may have taken Tommy from this world, but he is alive with the Father in Heaven.

Do you know where you will go when you die?

https://docs.google.com/file/d/0ByfGzV5O1vDpV3dwV2p4dUxiOXM/edit?pli=1

Tragedy

A brother in Christ died suddenly on Wednesday. I remember getting the message from my husband saying that he received a call from our daughter, “I don’t know what she said… she was crying… I think she said Tommy died… I’m heading over to their house.”

The next call my husband said, “Tommy shot himself.”

I couldn’t believe it. I kept thinking it must have been an accident.

Tommy was always so calm and collected—he exhibited serenity and peace. It seemed like nothing seemed to really bother him.

We spent several hours with Tommy and my daughter in the waiting room before, during, and after his son’s (my son-in-law) surgery about two weeks ago. My husband and Tommy chatted about little things—books they’ve read, trips they’d taken, etc. Tommy seemed fine.

What did I miss? What kind of a counselor am I if I couldn’t see that something was wrong?

Now I wonder how many people I see that are really torn up inside—they are crying out for help but I can’t hear them. I am blind to their personal torment and pain.

As we drove back from Iowa, I look at the two little girls sitting in the backseat. My 4-year-old granddaughter says, “I miss Grandaddy.”

My heart sank. Tommy will never hug and kiss them again.

I wish I could turn back time for them. I wish the gun would have jammed… I wish an unexpected visitor would have changed Tommy’s plan that day…

The truth is no amount of wishing can change what happened. I just don’t want this to happen to anyone else.

Please, please, please talk to someone if you are thinking about ending your life. Let someone help you with your pain. We need each other. Death is not the answer.

Imagehttp://wcfcourier.com/news/local/new-details-popular-pastor-takes-his-own-life-in-dunkerton/article_47538534-443f-50eb-a849-1530c80728fe.html

Is There More I Could Have Done? Reflections on a Painful Loss