Talk Back

Talk Back: A Not-So-Happy Holiday

JET wants you to Talk Back. This is one of the reader submissions that we received and opted to publish. Want to make your voice heard? Submit your commentary, TV show recap, poem, or essay HERE. Read all the rules so you know how it works.

I’d been out Christmas shopping prior to the call on December 19th 2008, informing me that my mother, Rhonda Yvonne Turner-Foster, had passed away. She was stolen by heart disease at the young age of 52.

I cried foul, Really God? You’re taking my mom? And of all times…at Christmas?!

Upon collecting the shattered pieces of my heart, my husband, Don and I left our Chicago home with our 15-month-old daughter, Donae, for my hometown of Terre Haute, Indiana in the middle of a blizzard!

Once we arrived, we managed to muster smiles for relatives, while exhaling through selections with a funeral director. We exerted every effort to maintain composure for five days, until mom was buried on December 26th. Purchasing her casket on Christmas wasn’t exactly the gift I’d had in mind. And, if you think that’s undesirable, things only worsened.

While we were in Terre Haute for nearly a week, Chicago was being plummeted with ice and snow. As a consequence, our pipes froze and burst in three places, spewing water all over our newly constructed home. Nearly everything was destroyed–leaving the house uninhabitable. It had to be gutted down to the studs and rebuilt.

Disbelief consumed me.

I’ve lost my mother, my home and nearly all of my possessions in one day!” I pondered. How would I ever get through another Holiday season without experiencing post-traumatic stress?

I don’t stand alone. The holidays tend to produce anxiety and sadness for many of us who’ve suffered loss. The cause needn’t be death; some have loved ones present on earth, but not in their lives producing a grief just as intense.

The holiday season isn’t exactly over in a flash either. There’s a good four or five weeks of hearing, “Hang All The Mistletoe…” There’s only so much staring at a blank wall one can do. I needed a healthy outlet for my emotions. After all, I was a new stay-at-home mother, who desperately wanted to be good at it.

God spoke to my heart and said, “Write!”

Initially, it was just a few letters to show my appreciation to the organizations who aided us during our time of crisis. Those three letters resulted in miraculous outcomes. The first recipient was Wayne Goldberg, the CEO of the LaQuinta Inn & Suites, which is where we stayed while our house was being rebuilt. “First, let me express my appreciation for you taking the time to write us,” said Goldberg. He then continued with other encouragement ending with, “I am enclosing a Free Night Certificate.” That certificate, plus several upgrades to suites accompanied with the points earned during our seven-week stay, accumulated to nearly two weeks of complimentary nights.

The second recipient was Allstate Insurance. Linda Fields was one of our three claim adjusters, “Allstate is so moved by your story they want to film it,” said Fields. Within a matter of days, we had Freelance Producer, Reba Meshulum, and her film crew in our living room.

“Your story has spurred an overwhelming positive reaction. It was shown to over 70,000 of our employees and agents, your family has inspired them to continue to put our customers at the center of what they do,” said Meghan O’Kelly, a member of the Allstate Enterprises Communication Team.

The third recipient was Steve Munsey. The head pastor of Family Christian Center in Muncie, Indiana. I didn’t know if he’d even get it being that FCC has over 20,000 members. I assumed he probably didn’t read his own mail. Nonetheless, while I was sitting in one of his pews, he began to read my letter to his congregation from the pulpit as a testament to God’s grace to bring people through difficult times.

Those events marked all the “signs and wonders” I needed to confirm that God wanted me to share more than a few letters. He spoke into my spirit and said, “Testify!” Which precipitated my memoir, Becoming a Mother, While Losing My Own.

If you’re struggling with a loss this season, don’t go through it alone. Let others know how you’re feeling, because people do care and they’ll respond to your needs if you have the courage to reveal them. If you redirect your pain in a positive way, it’ll produce a product that’s beneficial to the world…and the product isn’t my book…it’s me!

Today, I remain happily married to my wonderful husband Don of 13 years. Donae is now 8 and our youngest daughter, Rhonda-Rene is five. We named her after my mom. I now write professionally. I’m a freelance journalist/photographer and Correspondent Newspaper Reporter. I’m also the Director of Communications for a Suburban Elementary School District.

If you would have told me in the midst of my storm that God was going to birth a new career from it, I would’ve thought you were nuts. Yet, I chose to yield unto that of which I could not control and allowed God to guide me to where He has purposed me to be, from pain…to praise! Have a wonderful holiday season!

Claudia Parker

Claudia Parker is an Author, Columnist, Freelance Journalist and Photographer who also works as a Director of Communications for a suburban school district. She resides in Evergreen Park, IL with her husband and two daughters.