Hi! My name is Abigail. I finished my mortal mission in a little spec of eternity you call July 2013.
Now I'm in the Spirit World and can help my family and friends (that's everyone) from this side of the veil. Some people get a little uneasy talking about "talking spirits" or "ghosts" but I'm here to tell you we're not scary. My body died, but I'm still alive. My body was destroyed and really needed a break, but I'll have it again soon. You'll have to trust me on the issue of timing. It won't be long, promise.
A month before I came here, my mommy was holding me and I told her "I will keep you forever." It took her by surprise that I came up with that on my own, but I knew what I was saying. I reinforced it later a few times by telling her, "I will keep you forever in my world, " and "I will keep you forever in my life". I meant exactly what I said.
This little piece of world wide web is a place my mom can continue to write and record her feelings--her progress, I like to call it. I know it's helping a few of you, too.
Remember who you are--really are--and that many of us are excited to see you all again, too. Eternity is a very long time and I have to keep reminding my mom "I will keep you forever".

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Our First Easter

Our little family of husband, myself, and our 3 children at the time moved to Mesa AZ on January 1, 2004. Three months later we found a house to buy, and it was a mere 1/2 of a mile from the Mesa Cemetery. When Easter came that first year, we started a tradition of going to the cemetery and signing Easter songs to my brother.


His gravestone says

Our Celestial Missionary
Jared Irving Ray
Aug 13, 1970
March 28, 1977

He died from a brain stem tumor a year before I was born, so I never knew him in this mortal life. But each year at Easter we would go to his grave.

As the years went on, Sister #4 and then Abigail joined our family, and then one fateful day in January 2011 we found out Abigail had cancer--she was 19 months old. I'll have to check my photos of those years, but I imagine that we visited the cemetery that year. The next year, 2012, her hair was growing back and she had No Evidence of Disease. That was a good year, until the end of December.

Keeping with tradition, last year we visited Jared's grave again. Abigail was bald again from treatment. I have pictures of her being spunky and dancing in her sweet little way. Someone is buried on the left side of Jared, but to the right of him there were unused plots, and so that is usually where we would sit. Now I look at the pictures of Abigail at that Easter visit, and see my little 3-year-old running and hopping on Jared's grave, neighboring graves, and the ground that would eventually be her grave.



Now when we go to the cemetery, we see Jared's gravestone, plus

I Will Keep You Forever
Abigail Goss
June 12, 2009
July 15, 2013

Of course, we live in Virginia now, but I can see her gravestone as clearly as if I was there. I miss visiting her. Maybe someone else will stop by today. We stayed with our tradition and went to a little cemetery out here in the country....there are many. We didn't know anyone there, so we just sang to no one in particular! It is hard being away from Abigail, but she left us first.

During Abigail's cancer journey, occasionally my brother's name would come to my mind, or an image of my Aunt Juanita. I would draw strength from their lives and although I never 'felt' them, I felt as if they were supporting Abigail and our family in ways we couldn't see. I was so grateful for them. I can't wait to see them again and tell them how grateful I am for their help and express my love to them. I can't wait to meet my brother!

And now, I think of Abigail. Naturally. I can't wait to see her again!! Easter is a beautiful, beautiful time and the tears are mostly of joy and gratitude, punctuated by the pain that makes my gratitude so deep.

There was a fireside address given in 1974 that I love. Time cannot tarnish truth. Elder Neal A. Maxwell said,

"I speak to this generation of what lies ahead--urging you to pour out your hearts in supplication and prayer. There is nothing more powerful than prayer, nothing more masculine or more feminine (at the same time) than prayer. There was more power processed and expended on that single night in Gethsemane, in that small garden, than all the armies and navies have ever expended in all the battles on land and sea and in the air in all of human history. There was more good done in that garden that night because of prayer and because of suffering than has been achieved by all the social, political, and economic programs that one sees strewn down the long corridor of human history. The catalyst of prayer helped Jesus to cope with suffering, and by this suffering he emancipated all men from death and made possible eternal life. This cardinal fact about the central act of human history, the Atonement, ought to give us pause, therefore, as we face our challenges individually.

"Most of our suffering, brothers and sisters, actually comes because of our sins and not because of our nobility. Isn't it marvelous that Jesus Christ, who did not have to endure that kind of suffering because he was sin-free, nevertheless took upon himself the sins of all of us and experienced an agony so exquisite we cannot comprehend it? I don't know how many people have lived on the earth for sure, but demographers say between 30 and 67 billion. If you were to collect the agony for your own sins and I for mine, and multiply it by that number, we can only shudder at what the sensitive, divine soul of Jesus must have experienced in taking upon himself the awful arithmetic of the sins of all of us--an act which he did selflessly and voluntarily. If it is also true (in some way we don't understand) that the cavity which suffering carves into our souls will one day also be the receptacle of joy, how infinitely greater Jesus' capacity for joy, when he said, after his resurrection, 'Behold, my joy is full.' How very, very full, indeed, his joy must have been!"

His agony and pain became something glorious and beautiful.

How grateful I am for His birth, His life, His death, and His resurrection. I love my Savior, Jesus Christ. I can't wait to see Him again, too. Happy Resurrection Day, everyone!!!! The best day of the year...no, of eternity.

Faith.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Nine Months

Nine months gestation--Hard, yet beautiful.
Nine months exterogestation--Hard, yet beautiful.
Nine months after she left this mortal world--Hard. Beautiful for her. Working on it on this side!

Maybe I'm on to something here....or maybe not. But if the first 9 months of new periods of time are any indication, I'm going to proceed with "the glass half-full" theory. Or in other words, carry on with gratitude that we had Abigail for a short while and look forward with great hope and joy that we will have her again.

A few weeks ago I listened to inspired words--words about endings in our life. I'll post a link for the full article at the end, but here are some beautiful excerpts:

"Over the years, I have had the sacred opportunity to meet with many people whose sorrows seem to reach the very depths of their soul...Often their grief is caused by what seems to them as an ending. Some are facing the end of a cherished relationship, such as the death of a loved one or estrangement from a family member. Others feel they are facing the end of hope—the hope of being married or bearing children or overcoming an illness. Others may be facing the end of their faith, as confusing and conflicting voices in the world tempt them to question, even abandon, what they once knew to be true.

Sooner or later, I believe that all of us experience times when the very fabric of our world tears at the seams, leaving us feeling alone, frustrated, and adrift.

It can happen to anyone. No one is immune.

Everyone’s situation is different, and the details of each life are unique. Nevertheless, I have learned that there is something that would take away the bitterness that may come into our lives. There is one thing we can do to make life sweeter, more joyful, even glorious.

We can be grateful!

It might sound contrary to the wisdom of the world to suggest that one who is burdened with sorrow should give thanks to God. But those who set aside the bottle of bitterness and lift instead the goblet of gratitude can find a purifying drink of healing, peace, and understanding." President Dieter F. Uchtdorf

I love that. We tried very hard during Abigail's fight with cancer to be grateful, and although we certainly weren't even close to perfect with it, our attempts blessed our lives. There is something very, very powerful about recognizing and giving thanks to God...

President Uchtdorf continues with a BEAUTIFUL explanation of endings:

"In light of what we know about our eternal destiny, is it any wonder that whenever we face the bitter endings of life, they seem unacceptable to us? There seems to be something inside of us that resists endings.
Why is this? Because we are made of the stuff of eternity. We are eternal beings, children of the Almighty God, whose name is Endless and who promises eternal blessings without number. Endings are not our destiny.

The more we learn about the gospel of Jesus Christ, the more we realize that endings here in mortality are not endings at all. They are merely interruptions—temporary pauses that one day will seem small compared to the eternal joy awaiting the faithful.

How grateful I am to my Heavenly Father that in His plan there are no true endings, only everlasting beginnings."

Everlasting beginnings.

The Lord has promised: "And he who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto him, even an hundred fold, yea, more."  Doctrine and Covenants 78:19

If Abigail's mortal ending will feel like a mere interruption, then a nine-month mark won't even register.

How grateful I am...for so many things.

Faith.


Grateful in Any Circumstances
Exterogestation

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Do's and Don'ts




Dear friends,

It feels like it has been a long time since I wrote. There is a topic I've wanted to address, but I haven't yet written about because I don't want to "get it wrong." Well, it's time to just lay it out there and let people take from it what they can. Please just keep in mind that this isn't everything, nor is it perfect. But it's a start.

A friend of mine emailed me these thoughts and questions: 

"I want to really thank you for sharing so much about your emotions about death. It is something no one can understand unless they have personally lost someone. I have always wondered what to say or what to do and was totally lost with what to do when you lost Abigail. I would love to know more so that I might be more mindful and helpful to others. So, with what you know now, and what you go through and will go through in this mortal life, what would you tell someone or do for someone who has lost someone? Is it best to just listen? What service is best? What words are best? I wish I knew better when you were here. I wish I knew what to say or what to do. My reaction is always to stay quiet since words wouldn't come out right but I know that isn't the answer."

Sweet friend, thank you for opening a can of worms for me. :) <big smile>

As I've thought about it, I realized I first had some thoughts to share for people experiencing the grief. It is appropriate to put it here, because I cannot write a list of helpful "do's and don'ts" for you without being clearly aware that there are do's and don'ts for us. I read a blog where one mother who had lost a child seemed quite bitter and angry that people would ask her how she was doing, strangers would ask her how many kids she had, and  someone would do something to recognize the first year anniversary (of birth or death) but didn't continue that recognition as the years went by. To myself and others, my words of advice are this: be grateful for the love and support you get when you get it. Your friends' worlds didn't shatter or change or morph or warp like yours did, and so they will forget the days and times that are important to you. We cannot expect them to remember like we do. Do not begrudge them. Humans will always fail you if  they are the only source of comfort that support you. God in heaven is our real source of strength and support, and as we follow Him, we will be forgiving of "perceived shortcomings" in others. We all have them!

Now, on to addressing my friend's question of what people in the other boat can do to help...I didn't want to answer this all by myself, so I reached out to several other moms who have also lost a child. So "my" answer is a collection of answers...bonus for you! And before I type the list, please know this: The Goss family is deeply grateful for all of the love, support, compassion, energy, thought, prayers, time, hard work, and tears that were and are offered in our behalf. Thank you!!

"What would you tell someone or do for someone who has lost someone?"

1. Pray and/or fast for them. Heaven is more powerful than anything you could do and more powerful than all of us combined,. Pray earnestly for them. For a long time, if you feel so inclined. Pray. They need the help, and we can all use the practice.

2. Send a card. One mother said "it would have been nice to receive a sympathy card." Ouch!! Oh, that hurt my heart! Yes, send a card!! Anytime, really. Send a card for a holiday that has nothing to do with the death of the child. Or send a card at the 6-month mark, or year mark. Or send a card when you think of it and say you were thinking of their child. The fact that you took the time to find (or make) a card with a message, sat down and wrote something, found their address, and paid for postage means a lot. Somehow it's different than an email (which aren't bad either!). 

3. Say "I'm sorry." Another wise mother responded, "A very simple and sincere 'I'm sorry' and a willingness to take the time to ask questions and listen to me talk about my experience and my daughter." Contrary to the belief that "I'm sorry" is trite, it isn't. "I'm sorry" and a hug can often be the best thing. One mom said, "Less is more sometimes."

4. Send an email or text. Many people are worried about intruding. A grieving person can read an email or text at their leisure and it's very non-invasive. A sister-in-law of mine sends me a text every so often--not even very frequently (less than once a month), but enough to know that I know she thinks about me still. It is comforting.

5. If you can afford it, send or deliver flowers. They are beautiful, uplifting, and very thoughtful. Not required, but always appreciated.

6. Do something without being asked. Can you mow their lawn? Pull weeds? Wash the outside of their car? (Personally, I didn't even mind people coming inside my house to do things. I'm pretty humble like that...you wanna clean my dirty bathroom? Thank you!) Drop off a meal. Maybe it appears from your perspective that the grieving person's life has gotten back to "normal" (HAHAHAHAHA); they've gone back to work, to school, etc. and they don't seem to "need" anything. Wrong. They need to know they are thought about often. Stop by with muffins and fruit they can eat for breakfast, take by some granola bars and cut up veggies for the family to snack on, or a dinner if you can handle that. Is there a time limit on how far out to still be showing your love for them?!

7. If you ARE asked to do something, please do it promptly. That doesn't need much explaining. Our support system rocked on this one. Thank you, thank you. One small example is that I once bought 4 or 5 pineapple intending to ripen and freeze them. Well, Abigail got a fever and we had to go inpatient just as the pineapple were ready. I called a friend, and her husband picked them up and 'processed' them all for me and brought them back frozen later. I was so grateful. Obviously, ripe fruit can't wait, but if you're asked, promptness is appreciated.

8. "It's hard to be there too much for someone, but very easy to not be there enough." A strange thing happens when hardship or death comes to a friend....people pull away. I think they do so because they just don't know what to say, don't know what to do, or can't handle their own emotions. No judgment here. Recognize this happens all the time. If you weren't a close friend to begin with, the loss of friendship won't feel so acute. If you were a close friend, that pulling away feels amplified. Again, sending a text or card or dropping off a treat is pretty easy on your part, and can go a long way. "By small means are great things brought to pass." 

I should also mention here, that the friend isn't the only one likely to pull away; the grieving person is also pulling away because there are many, many emotions going through them and they need time and space. So when both parties follow what 'naturally happens,' it sure can be lonely. As a friend, if you want to help, fight against the instinct to just follow what naturally happens.

9. Refrain from asking how they're REALLY feeling. I have a good friend who won't mind if I share this story. When we would get together, she would lovingly and gently ask, "How ARE YOU?" knowing that my daughter just DIED and I must be going through a lot of emotions. While I appreciated her concern, being asked outright wasn't very fun. So after I thought about it, I politely did something very unpolite. I told her (to her face! Yikes!) that I didn't like to be asked outright. She took it like a champ. I told her that a generic "How ya doing?" would suffice, and as our friendly conversation warmed up, it was more likely than not that we would talk about Abigail and hence my feelings as well. 

Another mother's response: "I don't really want anyone to say, "How are you?" (meaning, with the same probing feeling I described above).  I feel like yelling at them and grabbing them by the throat and I want to say, "How the _____ do you think I am? I am in physical, emotional, and at times spiritual pain."  That is the one question I do not want to be asked.  It is okay to ask me how I am healing.  That feels better to me."

Another friend likes to be asked, "How is today?" So it's obvious that we all have different thoughts about "How are you?" but the main point here is to not be too pushy with it--it's much better to be able to talk about my feelings when and how I want to. And normally, grieving people WANT TO!! Just let them do it in their way, in their time. Which leads perfectly to:

10.  Be willing to talk about the person who died. Every mother I asked mentioned this exact thing.

“If you know someone who has lost a child, and you're afraid to mention them because you think you might make them sad by reminding them that they died--you're not reminding them. They didn't forget they died. What you're reminding them of is that you remembered that they lived, and ...that is a great gift.”  Elizabeth Edwards

"I think for friends it is helpful when they acknowledge my daughter and talk about her. It makes me happy to know that they think of her."

"For me the best "medicine" was letting me talk about my son.  I would tell people, just let me remember all that I can say about him and verbalize it."

11. Number 10 comes with a caveat though, which is Number 11: Please just listen as we talk about our children. "Let me cry if I need to.  Let me express my feelings right then, whether that be anger, sadness, or confusion on why this happened." Appropriate sounds or "I'm sorry" are good responses. If you are tempted to try to change their feelings, don't. Using words to the ear will rarely change the feelings of the heart when it comes to fresh grief. Even if they express anger at God, don't jump in and try to help them "see the danger" in that. God can handle a little anger thrown His way! And more likely than not, it will blow over. Oh, the emotions come and go with intensity! Love is the most vital need of our time, whether it's for grief or anything else. 

12. Share books on grief or near-death experiences. Personally, I really like near-death books myself. When I read them, it's almost like a time that I can go and be where Abigail is. "I liked that people shared books on death with me.  I also liked when people would tell me about the stages of grief and reassured me that I was cycling through and what I felt was normal.  I also did not want people putting a time line on when I was going to magically be happy again."

13. Don't compare stories. Just don't. Being told I should be grateful that I could "do something" for Abigail as opposed to a mother who lost her baby at birth and therefore couldn't do anything for her child--Not Helpful. Being told that another family whose son had neuroblastoma and they didn't do anything for treatment except pray and have lots of faith and he was healed-Not Helpful. (I could go off on this one....stage? age? etc etc. Did the woman even know there was a type of NB that doctors choose to NOT treat because it reverses itself?? No, the woman didn't even know what stage the boy was.) This concept could also be "Don't compare." If your child left for college for 3 years, I bet that was super hard. I'm so sorry. You got her back. Just don't.

14. Support from someone who's been there. Said another mom, "Talking to someone who doesn't know what you've been through is almost a waste of time for me." Please know that it is impossible for us to describe and for you to understand what we feel if you haven't been through something like it. Do a little research and find either a local group or an online group that supports what loss they are experiencing. There are a lot available! The research you provide could be very beneficial. And they still need you, too. You don't have to have lost to be a listening ear or loving friend.

That wraps up my lovely list of 14 ideas. If all else fails, go back to #1.

Be there for them. Pray for them. Love them. Silence isn't bad. Words aren't bad, either. No one is perfect. Things will be said that shouldn't be, and words won't be said that should be. We are all trying to 'get through' mortality as best as we can! We're in it together, and I am just grateful that there are sweet, loving men and women out there who are willing to "mourn with those that mourn", and even more demanding, "bear one another's burdens that they may be light." (Mosiah 18:8-9). Ponder that statement. What does it mean for you?

And so to my friend who asked the question, I hope this long answer is more helpful than heavy. "Staying quiet" isn't bad, as long as you don't stay away. No, you didn't say much when Abigail died. But I knew you were there for me, because you did something. I knew. Thank you.

I am so grateful for all of you.

Faith.


Saturday, April 5, 2014

You're Invited

Today was a spiritual feast. Tomorrow will be another.

"Pure Christlike love flowing from true righteousness can change the world." Elder Holland
"The celestial organization of heaven is based on families." Elder Cook
"There exists today a great need for men and women to cultivate respect for each other across wide distances of belief." Elder Zwick

I can't go to bed tonight without extending to you an invitation to watch (or listen) and learn tomorrow (Sunday). The prophets of God have messages for us to hear, and you will be blessed by hearing them.
You can do it from the comfort of your own home!
Here are the viewing options:

Saturday and Sunday, April 5 and 6, 2014, with general sessions each day at 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. mountain daylight time (MDT). **and if you can't make the exact time, it's always online later!!!!**

General Conference Website
Video in 19 languages
www.lds.org

LDS General Conference YouTube Channel
Video in English, Spanish, and Portuguese

BYUtv
http://www.byutv.org/watch/livetv

BYUtv International
Video and audio in Spanish and Portuguese

Mormon Channel Website
Video and audio in English and Spanish

Mormon Channel Mobile Apps
Video and audio in English and Spanish

Mormon Channel on Roku
Video in English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, and ASL.

Facebook.com/LDS
Video in English only

God speaks today. He is not silent. He has always loved His children, and always will, and because He loves us, He still speaks. I am eternally indebted to Him, not only for the salvation from death and the grave, but for the peace and joy His gospel brings to my life--every, single day.

With all of my heart, I want to be a disciple worthy to hear the words, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord."

He invites us all.

Faith.