A Box of Rocks

September 22, 2020, the Autumnal Equinox, a day that marks the changing of the seasons; the abundance of summer being ushered out to make room for the season about changing, letting go and ultimately of natural endings, was the day of my 22 year old daughter’s memorial service. It was the most perfectly beautiful, crystalline fall day. Once Abigael’s body was found, I had the crushing realization that planning a memorial service for her was IT for me. There would be no wedding, or surprise birthday parties, or any parties or baby showers to be a part of. And so, I obsessed over the details of the day–the flowers, the guest book, the Covid-friendly bites being offered, the collection of photographs and mementos of her too short life, the music, all of it. As I painstakingly chose each detail, I asked myself “would Abigael like this”? 

Right before the service, Garth and I were talking to the pastor who was officiating. We were steadying ourselves for what we were about to experience. Call it a memorial service, call it a celebration of life, call it a funeral. Nonetheless, it was marking a painful ending for us. All of a sudden, the owner of the venue came into the room explaining that an anonymous person had just dropped off a large box of painted rocks, and she handed me a letter. The artist wrote:

After reading Abigael’s obituary, I was so moved, I felt compelled to make these memory rocks. I did not have the pleasure of meeting Abigael. But your words spoke to me. I’ve tried to paint reflections of her life for others to share. 

Thank you, a mom

In the days that followed the service, many friends sent me photos of the rock that they chose, and I was astonished! I was amazed at the sheer number of them; there had to have been hundreds, and at the detail and the beauty of these rocks. They were infused with memories from the social media posts I had shared about my daughter. This was an incredibly special gift, and a beautiful detail I had never considered could be such an impactful part of her service.

I wonder about the artist of these rocks. Has she done this sort of thing before? If the answer is yes, I would really like to meet and learn from this individual. How has she been so in tune with the heartbreak and suffering that happens around her? How has she been so dedicated to serving others (strangers, even!) by sharing her own unique gift? Have I been so wrapped up in being busy that I just haven’t seen? If the answer is no, I would really like to meet and learn from this individual. What sort of courage does it take to move beyond simply feeling sad for a tragic situation and making the conscious decision to use your unique gifts to serve someone in pain, in need? How much time and energy–our most valuable gifts–had she poured into this hurting family and community? 

When was the last time I felt so moved that I decided to ACT, to do something motivated purely by love? Don’t get me wrong, in the “before” time, I did good things. I volunteered, I donated, I signed up to bring people meals, I always told people to have a wonderful day, and I meant it. But, when was the last time that I truly let LOVE shine through me? That I used my own unique gift to make some tiny little corner of this world a better place? Not when it was convenient or easy or expected, but because love for humanity was just so compelling. 

Abigael would have loved that box of rocks. She would have loved the synchronicity and spontaneity of it appearing at the service. She would have loved her friends and family holding onto a beautiful piece of earth and thinking of her. She would have loved me grappling with the notion that maybe, just maybe, I have more to give. 

The symbolism of rocks causing ripples is not lost on me. These rocks, and the life of my daughter who inspired them, have the ability to cause ripples. What if they cause just one person, or maybe two people, or maybe even two hundred people to, at least once in their life, figuratively paint their own box of rocks?

30 Comments

  1. Teresa Sifuentes says:

    Thank you for giving me a reminder I’ve forgotten to put in my everyday life❣

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am glad you received that message. Thank YOU for sharing that with me.

      Like

    2. Tracy says:

      Spurring us on in love the best ripple. Thanks Tressa. Thanking God for Abigael and the ripple effect she continues to have in the world and on me. You have your love ripple too!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I am learning that in brokenness, maybe even because of brokenness, that love can still reign supreme.

        Like

  2. Tracy Hill says:

    ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. XO, thinking of you.

      Like

  3. Rachel says:

    I am learning. You are teaching. Keep at it!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. NJN says:

    Tressa,
    Every time I look at the rock, mine says Courage, I am reminded that God is my ROCK, Jesus is my firm foundation and He gives me courage to press in to Him as we grieve with you and for you. Thank you for this reminder that I can be courageous and respond with love in ways I had not thought of before.
    Love you always.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. This was courageous to even write, so thank you for sharing this with me. If you feel like you can, share with me the surprising way(s) you respond with love.

      Like

  5. Erin Kille says:

    💖

    Liked by 1 person

  6. doranj21 says:

    Proud of you ! xxoo

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your encouragement is so appreciated! You only suggested this happen…hmmmm….how many years ago?

      Like

  7. Karen stoops says:

    Thank you for so many things.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Heidi says:

    What beautiful words 🤍
    Our rock says “try something new”. I placed it our front door to remind everyone everyday to try something new.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I LOVE hearing that! I would love to hear more stories of how people use their own rocks for motivation or remembrance or to be uplifted. It brings me such comfort.

      Like

  9. JK says:

    Thank you. Keep writing, please.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. I will. 🙂

      Like

  10. Jeanine Hocker says:

    With each word you write I feel your Abgael’s words speaking through you! What power she still brings to you and so many others! Through her, she forces you and others to reach inward to the depth of our souls, we think about her voice through your words, and her spirit brightens and lives within all of us! She continues to bless our world! I’m so thankful for her speaking to us and the lessons SHE has chosen through your pen! Continue on, heal our hearts as well as yours, and rejoice in the love she continues to share with the world!🙏🙏🙏

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I will hold that close to me–that she is bringing me power. I love that.

      Like

  11. Cathy Juergens says:

    What a beautiful way to honor your Daughter’s memory AND provide a gentle reminder about simple gestures making lasting and, oftentimes, a momentous impact. This blog is wonderful salve for a hurting heart.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t know many people these days who don’t have hurting hearts for one reason or another–not because they have lost a daughter but because of finances, or trouble with teaching kids from home, or divorce, or loneliness or whatever hurt it is. So, I hope these words can speak to those hurts.

      Like

  12. Karin C Fitz says:

    Tressa,
    I keep my rock on the window sill in the kitchen. Mine says Gratitude…….I’m glad you’re writing to help you with your journey of grief. Sending you hugs.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. In times such as these, pausing to be grateful can literally change the direction of the day. It is such a powerful tool.

      Like

  13. Tima says:

    You are a beautiful writer, and I’m sure Abigael is so proud of how you have handled everything…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. That thought certainly drives me.

      Like

  14. Kathy says:

    I love my rock. It was so hard to choose one at the ceremony. I will cherish it and it’s words “be kind”. I was so amazed by this loving gift from someone who never met Abby. Love your blog. Keep writing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was an incredible gift. Certainly the world needs more kindness right now. One of the last interviews I gave in Oregon, I urged people to just BE KIND to each other. You truly never know what people are going through. There are many days when I find myself getting honked at (or worse) because I do a lot of crying in my car, and sometimes get distracted. I want a big sticker for the back of my car that says “Be patient, grieving mother driving”. You just don’t know.

      Like

  15. Shelby says:

    You have such a gift with words. Your writing is so powerful and moving. I absolutely believe she is shining her light down on you! Much love to you and your family.

    Liked by 1 person

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